New York – A suspended New York City police officer accused and later cleared of spying for China is fighting to be reinstated, but the department wants him fired for refusing to be interviewed by the Internal Affairs Bureau to explore possible disciplinary action.
The fate of the officer, Baimadajie Angwang, now depends on the fate of an NYPD disciplinary judge, who is considering arguments presented until Tuesday.
The police department argued Anwang should be fired for insubordination, saying he intentionally disobeyed an order to be questioned in June. Anwang filed a lawsuit against the city two months ago, claiming he was wrongfully arrested in September 2020 when authorities detained him at gunpoint as he prepared to report to work in Queens.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced on January 19 that it would drop all espionage charges against the officers, saying prosecutors discovered new information that warranted their firing. Angwang, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Tibet, was accused of spying on foreign Tibetans in New York on behalf of Chinese consulate officials in New York, ending his two-year ordeal.
Despite his long legal ordeal, Anwang said on the witness stand on Tuesday that he still wanted to rejoin the force.
“I still want to be a police officer. I still want to serve,” he said.
Angwang said he refused to attend the June 5 hearing because he was told the order was illegal because his new lawyer would not have extra time to consult with him and expedite the case. Police also declined requests to provide witness lists and other documents ahead of a hearing that would focus on any misconduct that would warrant disciplinary action against him over his interactions with Chinese officials in New York.
Penny Bluford-Garrett, an attorney representing the police department, argued that “taking orders” is part of the job and that the department’s internal affairs bureau “can conduct any investigation against you.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn initially claimed that Aung Wang began working as a Chinese agent in 2018 and secretly provided information about Tibetans’ push for their homeland’s independence from the Communist government. He is said to have been working on identifying potential intelligence sources and identifying potential threats to Chinese interests.
Tibet has always been a particularly sensitive issue for communist China.
Anwang is not accused of endangering national security or the operations of the New York Police Department.
Anwang, 37, was assigned to the NYPD precinct in Queens as a community liaison.
“Should he lose his job? The answer to both of those questions is absolutely no,” said his attorney, Michael Bloch.
Instead, he said, the department should say: “Thank you for your service, sir, and welcome back.”
Anwang’s lawyers, however, argued that the interrogation was a set-up to deceive the officer, even though the Justice Department earlier dropped his federal case. An internal affairs lieutenant testified that he prepared a list of 1,700 questions for Angwang.
Angwang was first notified on May 17 and appeared in court five days later for questioning. But his lawyer was postponed until June 5, giving Anwang time to find a new lawyer.
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