SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australia court on Tuesday found a Melbourne man who held prominent positions in Chinese community associations guilty of planning an act of foreign interference, the first verdict of its kind under a law introduced in 2018.
Police in Victoria state had charged Di Sanh Duong, a former member of the Liberal party, in 2020 with preparing or planning an act of foreign interference, and the court found him guilty of these charges, the Australia Federal Police (AFP) said in a statement.
Local media reported prosecutors had told the court that Duong had been in regular contact with Chinese intelligence and had sought to influence a federal government minister to further the aims of the Chinese Communist Party.
Duong pleaded not guilty. He will be sentenced at a later date.
Under the law, a foreign interference activity undermines Australia’s national interests and is secretly carried out on behalf of a foreign government.
“Foreign interference remains a significant national security priority for the AFP,” the police statement said.
When the law was introduced to parliament, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cited allegations of Chinese government interference in Australian politics and universities, sparking an angry response from Beijing.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; editing by Miral Fahmy)