Liberal Party candidate Gladys Liu’s supporters have been spreading scare campaigns on Labor’s policies to the Chinese-Australian community via closed social media groups.
- The ABC has been shown a closed WeChat group of Gladys Liu’s supporters
- Misinformation shared in Ms Liu’s supporter group was also repeated in at least 12 other closed chat groups
- One of the posts that has been widely shared has been taken down by WeChat administrators for containing “vulgar, misleading and inflammatory words”
The scare campaigns are targeting voters in key marginal seats, by sharing misinformation on refugee intake numbers and the Safe Schools policy.
Ms Liu is standing as the Liberal candidate in the Melbourne electorate of Chisholm where nearly 12 per cent of eligible voters have Chinese ancestry.
She is a member and participant of a closed WeChat group of around 450 supporters, set up by close associate and Liberal supporter Mary You for Ms Liu’s campaign.
The ABC does not have access to the closed group and was shown the posts by an insider.
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‘Share like crazy’
A series of posts in Ms Liu’s supporter group show Belinda Liang, the owner of a beauty salon, encouraging the members to share a fake Australian Financial Review article with other WeChat closed groups.
The article calls for a reduction “in the input of refugees … and zero tolerance for refugees with specific beliefs” and warns “calls for the next Hitler will only become louder and louder”.
Despite the exposure, Ms Liang shared it widely on Monday.
“It is now the final week, everyone, we need to work hard, this article is worth sharing like crazy,” Liang wrote in the closed group.
She then posted screenshots showing she had already reposted the article in dozens of closed groups she belongs to.
“I will do it again tonight,” she added.
In the last 48 hours, the post was taken down by WeChat, replaced by a warning saying it contained “vulgar, misleading and inflammatory words”.
“After I read the article, I thought refugee issues are what everybody cares about so I asked people to share,” she told the ABC.
“I didn’t think about whether the article is true. But no-one wants more refugees to come in. We as taxpayers need to pay so much money for them. Why can’t we spend the money raising our children and taking care of our parents?”
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After this series of posts, Ms Liang also wrote she would be using her 90-year-old father’s ballot paper to vote for Ms Liu.
Ms You, who set up the closed group, posted a thumbs up emoji in support of Ms Liang’s posts.
- Belinda: I have shared it to dozens of groups. I will do it again tonight.
- Belinda: @GladiusLiu Elderly people who are more than 80 years old, usually don’t need to vote. My father is almost 90 and he doesn’t want to vote. Can I replace him to vote?
- Mary: *thumbs up*
Ms You is close to Ms Liu and helped her organise a December fundraising event.
Ms Liu, Ms You and Ms Liang all visited Parliament House together in May last year, posing for photos with prominent Liberal members including Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews.
Ms Liu also openly praised Ms You on Facebook as being “the best WeChat group manager”.
Inside the room, Ms Liu did not respond to Ms Liang’s post, nor did she intervene to stop the fake article being spread.
Consequently, in 12 closed groups the ABC has monitored, the same article was repeatedly shared by different WeChat accounts of other Liberal supporters.
Ms Liang also encouraged Ms Liu’s closed supporter group to widely share another article attacking Labor’s Safe Schools program.
WeChat group rules
Mary You: This is the WeChat group set up to help Gladys Liu, Liberal candidate for Chisholm, to run her federal election campaign.
In an email to the ABC, Ms Liu said: “This WeChat group IS NOT set up to help run my campaign.”
“I do have many supporters in the Chinese and broader community as do my opponents and I don’t think it’s either fair or reasonable to expect me or anybody else to monitor or sanction the activities on social media, including WeChat.
“No candidate can be accountable for what other people do as individuals or in their name.
“My Liberal Party Campaign Team for Chisholm, our HQ and our federal secretariat observe all the laws under which elections are conducted.”
The ABC asked Ms Liu to clarify Ms Liang and Ms You’s roles in her campaign, but she did not respond to questions about them.
A Liberal Party Victoria spokesman told the ABC they were not willing to confirm if Ms You was a member of the Liberal Party.
Ms Liang said she was not part of Ms Liu’s campaign team, but is a Liberal supporter.
Additional reporting and research by Cheng Liu.
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