Glen Eira City Council Tucker Ward candidates have raised concerns about fellow candidate Li Zhang, member of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), who is President of the Chinese Community Council of Australia, Victoria Branch (CCCAV).

In a public Facebook post, Councillor Candidate Joanne Beilby asked voters to “Watch out for the preferences or you may vote for communism”. She made this comment after questions were raised about Zhang’s CCP-United Front affiliations and the candidates who have given their number 2 and 3 preferences on their How to Vote cards.

Beilby, running as an independent candidate is also a member of the Liberal Party. She has preferenced independent incumbent Councillor Anne-Marie Cade, Philip De'Ath, who is also a member of the Liberal Party, and independent candidate Joshua Bach.

"Any candidate called to account for their political affiliations, and ability to democratically represent the community, who fails to do so, lacks transparency and is a matter of great concern. When that candidate launches a salvo of threats in response to legitimate questions, the implication of interference in due electoral process is evident." Beilby said.

Professor Clive Hamilton, author of Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party Is Reshaping the World and China expert, named the CCCAV as the "foremost United Front organization in Victoria." He said that the "CCCAV has among its member organizations many that are identifiably United Front bodies, such as the A.C. Media Group, La Trobe CSSA, Melbourne Chinese Youth United Association, the Pacific Times, and the Zhejiang Association of Victoria.”

According to Dr. Gerry Groot, the United Front Work Department (UWFD) "is a special department of the Communist Party [...] responsible for organizing outreach to key Chinese interest groups, including ethnic Chinese abroad, and representing and influencing them.”

"CCCAV's council of advisors includes some important and influential figures from Melbourne's United Front network," Prof. Hamilton added.

Joanne Beilby and Li Zhang
Joanne Beilby and Li ZhangSpokesman

Prof Hamilton added, "CCCAV's current president Zhang Li used to work for Hong Lim who has been named in the media as a key figure in an Australian lobby group tied to China’s Communist Party.” Victorian State Labor MP Hong Lim was alleged to have ties to the CCP-linked Australian Council for the Promotion of Peaceful Reunification of China.

The CCCAV has been mired in controversy in the past months, when it was revealed that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews senior advisor on China, Marty Mei, and electorate officer, Nancy Yang, were both listed as executive members.

Zhang has written on her Facebook candidate page that she emphatically denies that she is a member of the CCP and further asserts that the CCCAV has no relations with any foreign government.

Former Glen Eira City Council Mayor Jim Magee, and Labor Party member and Councillor Candidate Declan Martin, share preferences with Zhang.

Magee entered a residents’ Q and A Forum on Thursday with a spate of accusations towards Beilby, and in defense of himself, Zhang, and Martin. He denied membership of the Communist Party and said that he is unaware of what the 'United Front' is. He also added that he has contacted his lawyer about the matter and that he had been in contact with members of the mainstream press.

Zhang, who had taken down her promotional candidate YouTube post after allegations that it was shot during COVID-19 Stage 4 restrictions, did not attend the forum. Friday, she announced via Facebook that she has reported accusations of slander to the Victorian Electoral Commission and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Tucker Ward Candidates Weigh in about Li Zhang's CCP-United Front Ties

Independent candidate Neil Brewster said, "If these allegations are true then the Labor Party needs to be looking at their due diligence on checking candidates. If they did check and knew, that is a whole different kettle of fish. If the matter is systemic […] then this probably needs to be raised with ASIO. As I have said in my campaign all along, I believe there is no room for politics at the local council level, period. Local council is about the ratepayers not political party politics.”

Bach said that he “shares Joanne Beilby's concerns and applauds her for speaking out in defense of representative democracy."

“We need more people prepared to take a stand for the people of Glen Eira in local government. Clearly, the absence of comment from half the candidates running for election in Tucker Ward shows how they are not willing to put the people of Glen Eira first and ahead of their party affiliations. Joanne Beilby is a true representative. She is courageous in the face of threats to each individual and the nation," Bach said.

Cade said, "The revelations are concerning and it's important that the position is clarified sooner rather than later so residents have the correct information to make an informed choice when they vote."

De’Ath echoed the concerns, "No candidate in Australian elections should be associated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as it would set an extremely dangerous precedent.”

Federal Member for Goldstein Tim Wilson MP was unequivocal in his statement. “If any candidate has a link to the CCP and its intricate web of front groups they have a responsibility to answer basic questions to make it clear they’re running to be a Councillor and not a covert influencer,” he said. "The Labor-aligned Li Zhang’s connections through the Chinese Community Council of Australia to the Chinese Communist Party should disturb Glen Eira residents," Wilson said.

Beilby responded, “The latest actions taken by Li Zhang and others, including harassment, are aimed to muddy the waters, bury the real issue, undermine my candidature and spread fear through the people who have asked a simple question in defense of democracy. This is exactly what Prof Clive Hamilton and others have referred to as ‘overseas influence and interference’. We must not relinquish our freedom of speech in the face of intimidation.”

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Melbourne, Victoria, AustraliaiStock