Former Liberal candidate guilty over Chinese influence

Australia's first trial to test foreign interference laws has resulted in a guilty verdict over a man's $37,000 hospital donation.

Victorian businessman Di Sanh Duong, 68, faced a month-long jury trial in Melbourne's County Court, accused of preparing for or planning foreign interference.

He became the first person charged under federal laws created in 2018, which ban covert foreign interference in domestic politics.

Alan Tudge (left) at the hospital cheque presentation (file image)
Duong arranged for Alan Tudge to receive a $37,450 donation on behalf of Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Prosecutors argued at the trial that Duong planned to gain political influence by cultivating a relationship with the then-federal multicultural affairs minister, Alan Tudge, on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.

He did so by arranging for Mr Tudge to receive a $37,450 donation on behalf of Royal Melbourne Hospital, money he had raised as president of Oceania Federation of Chinese Organisations, the jury was told.

Duong started raising the money for COVID-19 supplies, including gloves and masks, to be exported from China, but he was unable to secure shipment and instead handed over a cheque.

Commonwealth prosecutor Patrick Doyle SC said the CCP would have seen Duong, a former Victorian Liberal Party candidate and Chinese community leader, as "an ideal target" to work as an agent for its United Front Work Department.

"A main goal of this system is to win over friends for the Chinese Communist Party, it involves generating sympathy for the party and its policies," he said.

He said Duong told an associate he was building a relationship with Mr Tudge, who "will be the prime minister in the future" and would become a "supporter/patron for us".

Mr Tudge's office organised a media opportunity where a novelty cheque was handed over at the hospital in June 2020.

The former minister told the trial he was concerned about "ugly racism" faced by the Australian Chinese community after the pandemic took hold.

Alan Tudge outside court (file image)
Mr Tudge said he was concerned about "ugly racism" faced by the Chinese community in the pandemic.

Duong pleaded not guilty and denied all allegations about foreign interference.

His barrister Peter Chadwick KC said the donation was a genuine attempt by Duong to help frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic and combat anti-China sentiment.

"The fear of COVID hung like a dark cloud over the Chinese community in Melbourne," Mr Chadwick told the jury.

"It’s against this backdrop that Mr Duong and other ethnic Chinese members of our community decided that they wanted to do something to change these unfair perceptions."

However, the jury disagreed and returned a guilty verdict on Tuesday afternoon after more than a week of deliberations.

Duong will remain on bail with stricter conditions, including that he must report daily and cannot leave Victoria.

He will return to court for a pre-sentence hearing in February.

Outside court, the Australian Federal Police said foreign interference remained a "significant national priority" and thanked its partners for their support.

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store