US drops case against NYC cop accused of spying for China

NEW YORK (AP) — Charges against a New York City police officer accused of spying on behalf of China were formally dropped Thursday after U.S. prosecutors said they uncovered new information that warranted the dismissal.

It ended a two-year ordeal for Baimadajie Angwang, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Tibet, who spent about six months in custody before being granted bail.

Outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, Angwang thanked his family and his supporters, including those on the city's police force and the U.S. Marine Corps, where he formerly served.

During a brief appearance in U.S. District Court, prosecutors said they were dropping charges “in the interest of justice" but declined to reveal what new information prompted them to do so.

Federal authorities had earlier accused Angwang of spying on expatriate Tibetans in New York on behalf of the Chinese consulate.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn asserted that Angwang had been working as an agent for China since 2018 and was secretly supplying information on Tibetans pushing for their homeland’s independence from the communist government.

Angwang initially traveled to the United States on a cultural exchange visa. He overstayed a second visa and eventually sought asylum in the United States, alleging he had been arrested and tortured in China partly because of his Tibetan ethnicity.

There was no allegation that Angwang compromised national security or New York Police Department operations. When prosecutors filed their case in 2020, they deemed him “the definition of an insider threat."

In court filings, Angwang's attorney said any discussions with the Chinese consulate were meant to curry favor so he could obtain a visa to visit relatives in Tibet.

Beijing had called the case “pure fabrication” meant to smear its diplomats in the United States.

Angwang has worked at an NYPD precinct in Queens as a community liaison, authorities said.

After gaining asylum, Angwang became a Marine and served in Afghanistan before being honorably discharged, according to court papers filed by his attorney, John Carman. Angwang went on to join the Army Reserve and the NYPD, earning a “Cop of the Month” award in his Queens precinct in September 2018, according to the court filing.

He is currently suspended, with pay from the NYPD, the department said. Information on his status with the Army Reserve was not immediately available.

Tibet has been an especially sensitive issue for communist China.

China says Tibet has historically been part of its territory since the mid-13th century, and China's ruling Communist Party has governed the Himalayan region since 1951. But many Tibetans say they were effectively independent for most of their history and that Beijing wants to exploit their resource-rich region while crushing their cultural identity.

Bobby Caina Calvan, The Associated Press