A US federal court has charged an ethnic Tibetan New York police officer who was born in China with acting as a foreign agent.
Baimadajie Angwang, a 33-year-old naturalised US citizen, is accused of hiding his Beijing connections as part of an effort to surveil Tibetans living in the city.
He was charged on Saturday with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for “reporting to [People’s Republic of China] government officials about the activities of Chinese citizens in the New York area and developing intelligence sources within the Tibetan community in the United States”, according to a US Justice Department announcement.
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The charges include wire fraud, making false statements and obstruction of a national security background check by the US Defence Department. The indictment was unsealed on Monday.
The indictment includes excerpts of numerous phone conversations between Angwang, who is also a member of the US Army Reserve (USAR), and an official at China’s New York consulate who “is believed to have been assigned to the ‘China Association for Preservation and Development of Tibetan Culture,’ a division of the PRC’s United Front Work Department”.
“Let them know you have recruited one in the police department,” Angwang said in a phone conversation with the consular official in November 2018, according to the indictment.
In another conversation with the official, Angwang is alleged to have discussed a specific group of Tibetans, saying “they don’t believe in Tibetan Buddhism” and might be more easily convinced to become “intelligence sources” in the US on behalf of the Chinese government.
“When the consulate extends a helping hand to them, they will feel the warmth of the motherland,” Angwang is alleged to have said.
The court document said Angwang had claimed to have no connection with any foreign governments, including consular officials, in a standard questionnaire he completed in 2019 for his USAR employment.
“Had background investigators been aware of the full extent of his contact with foreign government officials, Angwang would not have maintained his secret security clearance with the Department of Defence,” it said.
“Furthermore, if the USAR had been aware of the full extent of Angwang’s contacts with PRC [consular officials]”, he would have been discharged from the USAR.
The indictment detailed Angwang’s familial and financial ties to China, noting that his brother was currently serving as a reservist in the People’s Liberation Army. Wire transfers from China to accounts with Angwang’s name in the US in 2014 and 2016 amounted to nearly US$120,000, including one US$49,985 transfer from his brother.
The document also noted transfers, in 2016, of US$100,000 from Angwang to his brother in China and another in the amount of US$50,000 to another individual in the country.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the US allegations were “purely fabricated”.
“The plot of the US side to deliberately smear China’s consulate in the US will not succeed,” Wang told a regular press conference on Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Catherine Wong
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This article Tibetan policeman in New York charged with acting as foreign agent for China first appeared on South China Morning Post