China pushed back on the allegations from U.S. prosecutors that a New York City police officer has been working as a spy for its government, calling the charges filed against him “pure fabrication”.
Baimadajie Angwang, 33, who was born in China's Tibet region and serves in the U.S. Army Reserve, allegedly reported on the activity of ethnic Tibetans in the New York area to the Chinese consulate and was tasked with recruiting potential intelligence assets among the city's Tibetan community, prosecutors revealed Monday in a criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court.
But Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Tuesday said the indictment against Angwang was full of hedging terms such as “seems” and “possibly,” giving the appearance that prosecutors were straining to make their case.
“The relevant accusations made by the U.S. side are pure fabrication," Wang told reporters at a daily briefing. “The U.S. plot to discredit the Chinese consulate and personnel in the United States will not succeed."
There was no allegation that Angwang compromised national security or New York Police Department operations. Still, he was considered “the definition of an insider threat,” William Sweeney, head of the FBI’s New York office, said in a statement Monday.
The charges against Angwang include acting as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the attorney general, making false statements about his contacts, obstruction of an official proceeding, and wire fraud.
Troops sent by China's ruling Communists occupied Tibet in 1950 and Beijing claims the Himalayan region has been Chinese territory for centuries. Many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for much of that time and accuse China of trying to wipe out Tibet's unique Buddhist culture and language while exploiting its natural resources and encouraging Chinese to move there from other parts of the country.
Court papers say Angwang’s job as a spy for China was to “locate potential intelligence sources” and “identify potential threats to the (People's Republic of China) in the New York metropolitan area.” He also was expected to provide consulate officials “access to senior NYPD officials through invitations to official NYPD events,” they add.
An advocacy group, International Campaign for Tibet, said in a statement that the arrest shows that the “Chinese Communist Party is engaged in malign operations to suppress dissent, not only in Tibet… but any place in the world where Tibetans are free to express themselves.”
The alleged espionage activity occurred from May 2018 to his arrest this week, prosecutors said. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Angwang lives in Nassau County, Long Island, and works out of the 111th Precinct in Queens, officials said. He is assigned to the community affairs unit, where he serves as a liaison between the NYPD and the surrounding community served by the precinct.
He initially traveled to the U.S. on a cultural exchange visa, which he overstayed, prosecutors said. He sought asylum, claiming he'd been arrested and tortured in China because of his Tibetan ethnicity. Though he is Tibetan, his ties to China run deep, the Justice Department said.
His father is retired from China People's Liberation Army and is a member of the Chinese Communist Party, prosecutors allege. His mother is a retired government official and also a member of the Communist Party and his brother serves as a reservist in the PLA. All three live in China.
Fox News’ Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed to this report.