Chinese-Australian businessman Chau Chak Wing has told a Sydney court he was “distressed” by an ABC program which allegedly defamed him by portraying him as a Communist Party spy.
Dr Chau is suing the broadcaster over a joint investigation with Nine, which culminated in a June 2017 Four Corners episode.
Dr Chau alleges the program, along with accompanying online material, contained half a dozen defamatory imputations including that he “betrayed” Australia through espionage and paid “enormous” bribes to politicians.
Giving evidence from China through an interpreter, Dr Chau has told the Federal Court the allegations caused him trouble sleeping and damaged him financially.
Dr Chau, who is an Australian citizen, said he was “distressed” by the program and would never do anything wrong by Australia.
His daughter, Winky Chow, recalled taking about 15 phone calls after the episode aired from people who knew the family and were “shocked and surprised”.
She said the conversation in which she relayed the program’s contents to her father was “awkward and emotional”.
“He was very hurt, obviously, and through the conversation I had to ask him several times whether I should continue,” Ms Chow told the court.
“He kept asking me why. He just couldn’t believe what had been said.”
The court has heard Dr Chau’s donations to various causes in Australia have continued despite what his barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, called “attacks” by the ABC and Nine.
Former University of Technology Sydney vice chancellor Ross Milbourne said Dr Chau had contributed $20 million for a new building and an additional $5 million for scholarships after a meeting in 2009.
“He had a high reputation for integrity, no question,” Mr Milbourne told the court.
“Everyone thought it was a brilliant outcome. He was regarded as a very honourable and ethical man.”
Mr Milbourne said Dr Chau was passionate about advancing Australia-China relations though education.
Dr Chau has also made donations to Sydney University for a new museum, which is due to open within weeks and has been named after him.
The museum’s director, David Ellis, described Dr Chau as “a quiet giver”.
“Not on the radar as a philanthropist,” Mr Ellis said.
“Just one of those private individuals that gave generously.”
The court has heard the program was viewed by approximately 1 million people.
The ABC has previously had a truth defence struck out, leaving the major issue in the case as whether the allegedly defamatory imputations were conveyed.
The hearing, before Justice Steven Rares, is set down for four days.