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Richmond candidate's feelings 'badly hurt' by misinformation post on WeChat

A fake post on Chinese social media portrayed Melissa Zhang with Richmond United as just supporting Chinese residents.
Melissa Zhang doesn't know who created or circulated misinformation about her stance during the municipal election.

A Richmond council candidate has been trying to get to the bottom of who was circulating misinformation about her on Chinese social media during the recent municipal election.

Melissa Zhang, who ran unsuccessfully for city council with Richmond United – alongside Andy Hobbs and Eric Yung – said she was upset by a post, circulated on WeChat, that suggested people should vote her because she’s from Mainland China and would represent the Chinese population in Richmond.

Zhang told the Richmond News this was “not at all” in line with her platform.

“Community inclusiveness is something I stand for,” Zhang said, adding that’s the message she would tell people as she was campaigning.

Even the colours and style used in the post don’t align with Richmond United’s messaging, Zhang added.

But trying to find out who posted the misinformation has drawn a blank.

“I really want to figure out what happened… but it’s not easy to find out,” Zhang said. “It ruined my reputation, so I want to find out.”

Zhang said her feelings were “badly hurt” by the post claiming she would represent the Chinese community – whereas she said her stance was, if elected, to represent all Richmondites.

And, while it’s hard to know, she wondered whether it affected how many votes she got.

She placed 17th out of 27 candidates, garnering 5,936 votes.

People who create misinformation seem to be good at hiding their tracks, Zhang added.

Zhang and her team will have a debriefing soon and she will try to draw on others’ expertise on how to get to the bottom of this misinformation.

Complicating the matter during the election was when a volunteer with her team forwarded the message on social media, something Zhang said the volunteer then regretted, realizing the message was contrary to what she stood for.

Translated from Chinese, the post circulating on WeChat reads: "The Richmond Chinatown's government doesn't have a single representative who is an immigrant from Mainland China. How can it represent the Chinese population? Today, only Mainland Chinese girl-next-door Melissa Zhang can sincerely speak and work for the community. Vote for her!"

Shortly before the Oct. 15 election, a reader forwarded the post to the News, presumably thinking it created by Zhang, and said Zhang should be “disqualified” from the election.

“This is another clear attempt by the PRC government to influence Canadian local politics. Candidates such as Zhang needs to be disqualified or else it will do all Canadians disservice,” the reader wrote to the News.

Besides trying to figure out who posted the misinformation and why, Zhang said she wants to move forward and continue her work in the community.

“I believe everything I’m doing in the community is the right thing,” Zhang said.