The Australian Federal Police (AFP), working in conjunction with various security agencies including the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), have arrested and charged a man said to be working with an overseas spy agency.
He becomes the first person in Australia to be charged under the new foreign interference laws and appeared in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court yesterday.
AFP Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney said the man was charged with a foreign interference offence under the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill, passed in 2018.
Preventative action taken
“The Counter Foreign Interference (CFI) Taskforce has taken preventative action to disrupt this individual at an early stage,” Deputy Commissioner McCartney said.
Although neither the accused nor the country he is alleged to be acting for were named in the AFP’s statement, he has been identified by various media outlets as Duong Di Sanh, also known as Sunny Duong, aged 65.
He is said to be the Deputy Chairperson of the Museum of Chinese Australian History in Melbourne, and President of the Oceania Federation of Chinese Organisations from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Inc.
Chinese government links
“Mr Duong has been linked with the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification — which is affiliated with the Chinese Government’s overseas influence arm, the United Front Work Department,” ABC News reported.
“Mr Duong appeared next to Acting Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge at a press conference in June, when he handed over a cheque for more than $37,000 to the Royal Melbourne Hospital to help with coronavirus research and preparation,” the ABC added.
The accused was granted bail and will appear in court again in March 2021.
It’s corrupting and deceptive
In the AFP’s statement, Deputy Commissioner McCartney said investigations into the matter had been ongoing for a year and would continue.
“Foreign interference is contrary to Australia’s national interest, it goes to the heart of our democracy.
“It is corrupting and deceptive, and goes beyond routine diplomatic influence practiced by governments.’’
According to Reuters news agency, when the foreign interference legislation was introduced to Parliament, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull referred to media reports about covert interference by the Chinese Communist Party and said he was galvanised to take action by a classified ASIO report.