China has never meddled in other countries’ internal affairs and has no interest in doing so, Beijing has said, responding to Australia prosecuting the first individual under its ‘foreign interference’ law.

“I want to emphasize again that China has always adhered to the principles of mutual respect and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs in relations with other countries, and has no interest in interfering in other countries’ internal affairs,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a news briefing on Friday, responding to a question about the recent prosecution in Australia.

The official added he had no special knowledge about the case and so could not provide any details. On Thursday, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) revealed that a 65-year-old Melbourne resident, identified as Duong Di Sanh, was charged with “preparing for a foreign interference offence.” While AFP did not reveal which foreign intelligence agency the suspect allegedly conspired with, he has had connections to several China-linked organizations.

Namely, Duong is the president of the Oceania Federation of Chinese Organizations from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, as well as the deputy chairman of the Museum of Chinese Australian History in Melbourne. While the alleged conspiracy has been disrupted “at an early stage” and no actual damage has been done, the suspect faces up to 10 years behind bars if found guilty.

Duong became the first individual to be charged under Australia’s new Espionage and Foreign Interference law, adopted back in 2018. The legislation is perceived as largely anti-Chinese, as Canberra has been accusing Beijing of meddling in its domestic affairs for some three years already.

While China has firmly rejected such accusations, the souring relations between the two countries have yielded multiple hostile steps from both sides, including persecution of journalists, mass visa revocations, and other moves.

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