Angwang also was accused of wire fraud, lying on documents for secret-level clearance and obstructing an investigation.
“Baimadajie Angwang violated every oath he took in this country. One to the United States, another to the U.S. Army, and a third to this Police Department,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot F. Shea said in a statement.
The FBI’s Counterintelligence Division and New York Police Department worked together to record conversations between Angwang, an ethnic Tibetan, and his “handlers” at the Chinese consulate.
The federal arrest affidavit, unsealed on Monday, alleges that Angwang called his contacts at the Chinese consulate dozens of times and referred to them as “boss.”
Angwang allegedly offered to report the doings of the police department and help the consulate members develop “soft power” among Chinese and Tibetan immigrant communities in New York, the complaint alleges.
Tibet has been occupied by China since 1951. An independence movement in the Tibetan Autonomous Region has partially relied on expatriates for financial and political support.
Among the intelligence allegedly passed on by Angwang, in October 2018, was the opening of a Tibetan community center in Queens from which Tibetan political independence movements could be organized.
“They are the biggest venue for activities right now. If they are involved with politics, then in the future more than half of the meetings might take place there,” Angwang allegedly told his handlers at the consulate.
He also suggested that the consulate try to “develop” Catholics, Muslims or those of Hui ethnicity in the Tibetan community because those ethnic subgroups were “discriminated against and neglected,” in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, where Tibetan Buddhism was the state religion.
Angwang was a member of the Army Reserve with the rank of staff sergeant and stationed at Fort Dix, N.J. in an Airborne civil affairs battalion. He had a U.S. security clearance.
In 2019, Angwang lied on an electronically submitted SF-86C form for a background investigation, denying that he had relatives or contacts with a foreign government or foreign nationals, even though Angwang had relatives, including his parents, who worked for the Chinese government, the complaint said.
Angwang, a naturalized U.S. citizen, sought asylum in the United States after overstaying a cultural exchange visa. He alleged that he was “arrested and tortured” in China because of his Tibetan heritage, the complaint said.
“According to the allegations, the Chinese government recruited and directed a U.S. citizen and member of our nation’s largest law enforcement department to further its intelligence gathering and repression of Chinese abroad,” a statement from Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said.
“Our police departments provide for our public safety and are often the first line of defense against the national security threats our country faces.”
Angwang appeared via video conference in federal court Monday. If convicted of all charges, he could serve 55 years in prison.