A Chinese-language flyer endorsing the Christian Democratic Party, and likening transgender people to rapists, was handed out by a Chinese Christian group in the seat of Bennelong, New South Wales.

The flyer warns of the evils of gay marriage (a gay person will “die without sons”) and gender-inclusive toilets and encourages voters to vote for the CDP and put Labor and the Greens last.

Below is our full translation of the flyer, which was first reported by Crikey, and expanded on by BuzzFeed: 

If the ALP is elected, gay marriage will be legalised in December! 

A devastated mother made a frantic plea, because her only son is planning to get married to his gay partner as soon as gay marriage is legalized. This heartbroken mother called on everyone to save her son, to be sure that whatever they do on 2 July 2016, they don’t vote for the gay-marriage promoting Labor Party or Greens! To honour our parents and to protect our descendants, we must make concerted efforts to preserve Australia’s marriage laws that only recognize the union of a man and woman.

The Labor-Greens Alliance: Forcibly carry out the legalization of gay marriage. If the ALP is election on 2 July, same sex marriage will be legalized within 100 days. Citizens will have no recourse.

The Liberal Party: Will hold a plebiscite to decide whether gay marriage should be legalized.

Christian Democratic Party: Firmly opposed to the legalization of same sex marriage, will not compromise on this issue.

 Homosexuality means that you will die without sons [a common curse in rural China] and it is a death curse upon your family name, which will never be seen again! If you are opposed to the legalization of gay marriage, in this election please use your vote to resist it. Note: In this election you must choose six parties, otherwise your vote will be wasted. 

Please number your ballot one to six in the order listed below. These parties are opposed to the legalization of gay marriage:

  1. CDP
  2. Liberals and Nationals
  3. Democratic Labor Party
  4. Australian motoring enthusiasts Party
  5. Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party
  6. Family First 

Whatever you do, please do not mark a number for the ALP or the Greens, who will force the legalization of gay marriage. Or give them the last number (5 or 6). 

As long as you follow the way outlined above, you will achieve two outcomes with one vote: You will promote the Christian Democratic Party, and you will support the Liberal Party, because a ballot marked 1 for the CDP is automatically allocated as 2 for the Liberal Party. The more votes that are marked 1 for the CDP, the more the parliament will be able to repudiate the legalization of gay marriage.

If the ALP wins power, leading to the legalization of gay marriage in Australia, there will be no distinction between male and female public toilets. If any man decides that he believes he is a woman, he will legally be able to enter women’s toilets, even in schools. This gives an opportunity for criminals and rapists to dress up as women and sneak into their toilets. As you can imagine, women’s toilets will become sites for violent attacks.

The current prime minister has said, the promises made by the leader of the opposition during this election campaign are bad cheques, because the nation’s finances simply can’t support them. As you’ll discover by looking online, during its last term of six years in office, Labor ran up a massive deficit. In 2013/2014, just one financial year, they ran up a $44.9 billion debt, putting the nation into dire financial straits. All of this is the result of the “red envelope” the ALP gave to all citizens during its last term.

But the flyer, which the CDP has denied having any hand in writing, is only part of the story. Activist Christian churches are also using the social media platform WeChat to encourage Chinese-speaking Australians to support the Christian Democrats, a strategy that has paid off. Three seats in the middle belt of Sydney, dominated by Chinese-speaking Australians, resisted the national swing and NSW Labor’s ruthless marginal seats strategy.

In BennelongBanks and Reid the Christian Democrats more than doubled their vote from 2013. In Banks they might beat the Greens into third place and in both Bennelong and Reid (where the CDP’s candidate was a Korean pastor) CDP preferences delivered swings to the Coalition. Similar dynamics seem to have been in play in the Victorian seat of Chisholm, which looks likely to fall to the Coalition for the first time since 1996.

In all four electorates, the percentage of the electorate that was born in either China or Hong Kong was above 10% at the 2011 census. Also important are second-generation Chinese-Australian Christians, who, according to Philip Hughes, director of the Christian Research Association, are behind a church revival and “are far more willing than most Anglos to accept the strong authority system they find in Pentecostal and other charismatic churches, which are a good stepping point away from traditional Chinese churches”.

While the Coalition did little to cultivate the “ethnic vote”, China-based WeChat looks to have delivered a substantial chunk of votes to them in key marginal seats. Galvanised by same sex-marriage and a scare campaign around the Safe Schools program, Chinese-speaking church groups have used WeChat to fuel anti-Labor sentiment. Launched in 2011, WeChat (or Weixin) now is the world’s second-largest chat app behind WhatsApp, reaching 700 million monthly average users in April. Within China, its dominance is almost complete — 93% of adults in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing are regular users.

Overseas users are reported at 70 million, but the real total is likely to be much higher. WeChat is far more integrated into users’ daily lives than social networks and chat apps commonly in use in English, like Facebook or WhatsApp. WeChat users can chat to real-life contacts, easily make contact with those they only know online, send money, and run huge group chats with video, sound and photos in real time. In the absence of Twitter, Facebook or Instagram (which are banned in China) it is all of these, rolled into one. Some 90% use it daily, averaging seven visits a day, and more than half of them stay for more than an hour.

WeChat’s appeal to marketers and political parties is that it is suited to forming networks of people with similar worldviews. These may be built around your fellow parishioners or the people you went to high school with, typically people you trust. It is suited to asking questions — what car should I buy, who should I vote for — of a familiar cohort, an effect heightened in a country where the locals are racist and hard to understand.

Oddly, one of Australia’s least technologically literate parties (Fred Nile signs off his PDF newsletter Salt & Light “God Bless you and you’re Family”) has been the first to benefit, and the Chinese LGBTI community is among its first victims. Promises that the plebiscite on same-sex marriage will be conducted in a civil manner already ring hollow.

For Labor, the implication is clear. The party’s much-feted ground game is missing a piece: Chinese-speaking voters and their favoured medium, WeChat. Whether for social issues or for perceptions of Labor as a dismal economic manager handing out “red envelopes”, Chinese-speaking voters are deserting them in droves.

Labor’s strong position on education should have hit home with voters who were credited with turning an incumbent prime minister out of his own seat in 2007. Bennelong, where John Alexander holds sway over the influential Chinese Senior Citizens Club, may be beyond Labor, but as Chinese migrants dominate Australia’s intake, Labor needs to find the right message and the right medium soon.

*Graeme Smith is a senior lecturer with the Centre for Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Melbourne

Peter Fray

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