‘Unacceptable’: Gladys Liu boycotts WeChat over political interference concerns
Despite using WeChat to help win her the seat of Chisholm at the last federal election, Liberal MP Gladys Liu will stop using the Chinese messaging app over fears of political interference.
Her announcement comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s WeChat account was reportedly ‘hijacked’, blocking his access and replacing it with pro-communist party messaging.
In a statement on Monday, Hong Kong-born Ms Liu described the “removal of Scott Morrison from WeChat” as “deeply disappointing” and said it raised serious concerns of political interference.
“Because of these concerns, I will no longer be using my official or personal WeChat accounts to communicate until the platform explains itself,” she said.
She also raised concerns about the impact on the upcoming election, pointing out that opposition leader Anthony Albanese’s account remained unaffected.
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“In an election year especially, this sort of interference in our political processes is unacceptable, and this matter should be taken extremely seriously by all Australian politicians,” Ms Liu said.
Prior to Ms Liu’s announcement, Liberal senator James Paterson called on all Australian politicians to voluntarily boycott WeChat, saying “We cannot allow a foreign authoritarian government to interfere in our democracy and set the terms of public debate in Australia.”
As the first person of ethnically Chinese background to sit in federal parliament, Ms Liu has used the messaging service regularly to engage with her constituents and supported the Prime Minister in doing so as well.
Many people from Chinese communities in Australia, particularly those with limited English, rely on the app for news and information as well as keeping in touch with loved ones in China.
Shortly after being elected to parliament, Ms Liu faced accusations over alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party via a number of organisations she had previously held membership of.
Ms Liu strongly denied the accusations, saying she was either not aware of the memberships or that they were outdated.
She has since taken stances in strong opposition to that of the Chinese government, including supporting democracy in Hong Kong and calling for an official inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus.
When asked on Monday if to avoid interference Australian politicians should stay off the platform all together, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he would prefer not to see that happen.
“It‘s a method of communication to the Australian‑Chinese community, which is very important and it should be on offer to politicians of all political persuasions. And it shouldn’t be a political football,” Mr Frydenberg said.
He echoed Ms Liu’s concerns of an uneven playing field in the upcoming election.
“The Prime Minister hasn‘t been able to use WeChat as he would like to do as a means to communicate what he and his Government are doing,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“I haven’t been able to do the same communications as others who are competing against me politically in my own patch, and so it should be offered as a medium much more broadly and it’s not acceptable that it’s not.”
Ms Liu asked that rather than contacting her via WeChat, constituents use her parliamentary email or phone number.
“As always, I will continue to speak directly to Chinese Australians in my community and across the country in Chinese language media, and through emails and other platforms, including Facebook,” she said.
Originally published as ‘Unacceptable’: Gladys Liu boycotts WeChat over political interference concerns
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