Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the New York Post on Thursday that the recent arrest of a New York City police officer on charges of spying for the Chinese government was just the tip of the iceberg, with more arrests likely on the way.
Pompeo described China’s diplomatic consulate in New York as a hub for espionage activity against both the United States and the United Nations.
The Post asked Pompeo about the arrest of NYPD officer and Army reservist Baimadajie Angwang, described by the FBI as “the definition of an insider threat” because he used his fraudulently obtained security clearance and his position as a police officer to serve as an “intelligence asset” for the Chinese government. His activities allegedly included recruiting other intelligence sources and gathering information on critics of the Chinese state, especially other ethnic Tibetans like himself.
Pompeo replied that more Chinese agents and the “diplomats” who helped run and recruit them would likely be arrested, bluntly stating there are “absolutely” more cases like Angwang’s in the works. He said the espionage network in New York was headquartered at the Chinese consulate.
“They’re engaged in activities where they’re crossing the line from normal diplomacy to the kinds of things that would be more akin to what spies are doing,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo pointed to the Chinese consulate in Houston, which the U.S. government shuttered in July for alleged spying activities.
“We closed it because they’re engaged in espionage and that is a legal term. It’s not just a spy novel term. It is a very data-driven, analytic, fact-based analysis that says, ‘No, this is espionage, it’s unlawful, and therefore, we’re going to send you back,’” he said.
Pompeo pointed out that the Chinese consulate in New York City is convenient to U.N. facilities, and there is a “large contingent of Chinese diplomats here for United Nations work.”
Pompeo spoke to the Post while flying home from a speech in Wisconsin during which he warned state legislators about the political and security “challenge” the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) poses.
Pompeo said the CCP is quite active in American politics at the national and state level, the goal of which is to make Americans “receptive to Beijing’s form of authoritarianism,” and it poses an equally pervasive espionage threat.
Pompeo cited the Angwang case and said that “we see it all over,” from influence wielded through China’s seemingly “friendly” outreach programs to constant attempts to gather intelligence and steal intellectual property by exploiting civic and commercial partnerships from investment funds to educational programs. He also directly accused the CCP of wishing to “foment the kind of strife we’ve seen in Minneapolis and Portland and Kenosha.”
“Right now the FBI opens a China-related intellectual property theft case about once every ten hours. Staggering. We at the State Department just revoked visas for about 1,000 Chinese nationals suspected of raiding our intellectual property on university campuses all across America,” he said.
Pompeo’s remarks in Wisconsin cited Chinese consulates and diplomats as particular sources of concern, highlighting several cases of consular officials overtly seeking to influence American politics and spreading CCP propaganda. He said, “Most every state legislature in the country” has received letters from Chinese consular staff, pointing to the consulate in New York as “incredibly politically active.”
On Tuesday, the New York Post reported that the Queens-based Tibetan Community of New York and New Jersey said it uncovered ties between accused spy Baimadajie Angwang and the Chinese consulate in New York more than 18 months ago.
The Tibetan community group released a statement claiming Angwang tried to infiltrate them, but alarm bells went off when they “saw a photo of Angwang’s wife at a Chinese Consulate of New York event.”
The group became even more suspicious after Angwang began denouncing Tibetan human rights activists and advising his nominal associates not to raise their flag at the community center.
“What kind of Tibetan would ever tell us not to raise the Tibetan flag? Of course, we never heeded his unsolicited advice,” the group said. According to its statement, Angwang did not take no for an answer, and when a former president of the community organization “confronted him over the phone and directly asked about his relations with the Chinese Consulate in New York,” he admitted he did, indeed, have ties to the consulate.
“Tibetans have long known the Chinese government is spying on our communities, even in a free country like the United States, and this incident shows the lengths to which Beijing would go to undermine the Tibet Freedom Movement,” the organization stated.