Australia Makes Its First Arrest Under Foreign Interference Laws

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Australia’s made its first arrest under its foreign interference laws -- a 65-year-old man who’s a prominent member of the local Chinese community as well as groups connected to China’s overseas influence efforts, the Australia Broadcasting Corporation reported.

It follows a yearlong investigation led by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Australian Federal Police, who were looking into “the man’s relationship with a foreign intelligence agency,” the AFP said in a statement released Thursday.

The ABC named him as Duong Di Sanh, who it said was linked to the Museum of Chinese Australian History in Melbourne, and is the president of the Oceania Federation of Chinese Organisations. Duong was connected to the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification, which is affiliated with the Chinese government’s overseas influence arm, the ABC reported.

“Foreign interference is contrary to Australia’s national interest, it goes to the heart of our democracy,” AFP Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney said in the statement. “It is corrupting and deceptive, and goes beyond routine diplomatic influence practiced by governments.”

The law, passed in 2018, toughens penalties for espionage and requires people or organizations acting in the interest of overseas powers to register and disclose their ties. Its passage exacerbated diplomatic and trade tensions between Beijing and Canberra.

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