The impending local election at a newly formed council in South Sydney is reaching fever pitch, after a Chinese Australian candidate from a ward with the largest Chinese population in Australia, was accused by a group of opponents of an alleged series of misconduct, including an attempt to induce voters by offering sushi vouchers. There are also allegations of an attack on fellow candidate.
Only days away from electing the first Council for the newly formed Georges River Council, five candidates from across-party lines from the council's Hurstville ward, joined together to speak out at a media conference against fellow candidate Nancy Liu.
The group said in the conference that the local election has got "quite dirty" that they "had never had this in the past," involving unauthorized flyers, lies and threats of violence and attempted bribery.
The group, including Liberal's first candidate Christina Wu, independent candidates Stanley Xie and Ben Wang and Labor candidates Dominic Sin and former Lord Mayor Vince Badalati.
Together, the team accused former Unity Party-turned-Liberal Deputy Mayor of Hurstville Nancy Liu who is now a lead candidate of an Independent Team, of being "the only candidate who is causing a lot of problems," while others play by the rules.
The rare united front of candidates from the ward with the most candidates with Chinese-Australian background, comes after screenshots of a message sent by Liu's husband's employee went viral among community members on Chinese social media platform WeChat.
"Those voting for Group G (Liu's Independent Team) can come see me to get cash discount vouchers for Hurstville's most authentic Japanese cuisine."
The now-removed message, shown here in a screenshot acquired by SBS Mandarin was posted on 25th August by "Vivienne – Goodtime Travel" along with photos of meals, layers of $10 vouchers for a local Japanese restaurant, and 'How to Vote for Group G' voting instructions.
Fairfax Media reports that the author of the WeChat post, Vivienne Chen, who works for Good Time Travel Services, a business owned by Liu's husband, told them that the post was addressed to "friends who had voted for Group G," only to be seen by her private social network. It would also have been shared though by business contacts who would have received it under her work title.
In a statement to the Electoral Commission provided to Fairfax Media, Ms Chen said that she had been regularly posting about the specials at Rokko restaurant, including an August 24 message that read: "My fellow friends are almost moved to tears (by the fabulous promotion)."
Liu has defended her actions in a statement, translated by SBS Mandarin. It read that Ms Chen had "linked her personal support to an existing lunch promotional voucher that have been issued publicly," but that the promotion and the restaurant was "not in any way related to my campaign."
It is also reported that Electoral Commission "does not comment on whether it is or is not conducting an investigation."
Independent candidate from the same ward, Mr Stanley Xie, had also publicly requested Liu to respond to his questions regarding to other issues including Liu's party membership status, and an alleged life-threatening incident between Liu's husband and another local candidate, Christina Wu.
Ms Wu told media that this is the "most exhausting and chaotic" campaign she has ever had, even though it is not yet over – with four days left until election day.
Wu said at today’s press conference that it was "with a heavy heart,” she alleged that Liu's husband verbally threatened her last Saturday at a campaign event.
"He said, 'I will see how you die in four years',” Ms Wu said.
“I think it's far beyond what a normal democratic country can tolerate, and as a candidate it's a violation to my dignity too. So I chose to report it to the police.”
Nancy Liu acknowledged the "verbal confrontation" but claimed the case has been closed by the police, while Wu revealed that she had ordered an AVO form accordingly and consider to submit it “at appropriate time.”
Stanley Xie said he had to "reveal the dark insights,” about Liu. He emphasised though that this is not representative of the conduct of all Chinese politicians, nor does it show that Chinese Australians do not understand Australian values.
Xie said that "Chinese people only vote for faces they know."
He says it’s a situation that has to be fixed and in doing so prevent "mainstream's biased perception of Chinese political candidates.”
First time election runner, Mr Ben Wang believes that revealing the "dark side of the election" should be the first step for the Chinese communities’ participation in Australia politics becoming more just and transparent.
"Having said that, I feel satisfied that my election objectives have been partly achieved after today,”Wang said.
Nancy Liu was distributing flyers with her volunteers in Hurstville at the same time the others were commenting on her at the media conference.
Liu told SBS Mandarin journalist that the recent attacks by her rivals against her were vicious and unfair and have affected her family and her husband's reputation.
"I respect different views of other candidates...But as a member of public, a mother and wife, I will try my best to protect my family, my community and defend our dignity with law."
In regards to her party membership allegations, Liu provided SBS Mandarin with a signed-candidate information sheet showing that she had declared her registered Liberal Party membership. Liu claims she had corrected and resubmitted the form after finding it was not declared in the original form.
She also provided a screenshot from an email from Liberal State Director that confirmed Liu was granted to run as an independent candidate in the 2017 local government election, "on the condition that you direct your preferences the Liberal Party's ticket".
The 2017 Georges River Council government election is due to be held on 9 September 2017 amid local council elections across New South Wales.