Trump or Biden? Citizens of Hong Kong are divided

This appeared in The Millennial Source

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Some Hong Kongers believe Trump is the president that the seven million inhabitants of the island need in order to stand up to the CCP. For others, a more predictable US president and the restoration of traditional diplomacy are exactly what is needed to defend the former British colony.

Masked demonstrators stood at the forefront of the pro-democracy protests last year holding signs appealing to the compassion of United States President Donald Trump.

“President Trump,” they read, “Please liberate Hong Kong.”

Anti-mainland protests have rocked the former British island since the middle of last year. What initially started as demonstrations against a now-tabled extradition bill quickly snowballed to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposing a national security law on the semi-autonomous region in an effort to quell dissent.

Some Hong Kongers believe Trump is the president that the seven million inhabitants of the island need in order to stand up to the CCP. For others, a more predictable US president and the restoration of traditional diplomacy are exactly what is needed to defend the former British colony.

Trump’s presidency in the eyes of Hong Kongers

Trump’s response to the pleas of Hong Kongers has ranged from dismissive to assertive, often altering depending on the status of his billion-dollar trade deal that would bring jobs back to the states.

In August last year, after millions took to the streets following the introduction of the extradition bill, President Trump said it was up to China to deal with Hong Kong’s “riots.” “Hong Kong is a part of China, they’ll have to deal with that themselves,” he added.

However, his stance seemingly wavered several days later when footage emerged of military tanks approaching the Hong Kong-China border. In a change of tone, Trump suggested Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a “personal meeting” with the protesters, softening the suggestion by praising Xi’s leadership.

“I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a ‘tough business.’ I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?” he tweeted on August 14.

However, unlike in Hong Kong, where the anti-government protests have the leadership divided, the protests have created rare bipartisan agreement within the White House. On both sides of the aisle, everyone from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — along with a majority of other US officials — have spoken in support of the Hong Kong protesters.

It is amid this solidarity that Trump’s wavering stance has grown increasingly noticeable. While right-hand men to the president, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, have urged President Xi to respect the rights of the Hong Kong protesters, the president has repeatedly implied that his concern for human rights has hinged on economics.

According to former national security adviser John Bolton’s book, “The Room Where it Happened,” Trump expressed support for the CCP’s containment measures of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang saying that building the camps was “exactly the right thing to do” after Xi explained his government’s reasoning for doing so.

Soon after in an Axios interview, Trump admitted that he had delayed sanctioning China over human rights concerns in Xinjiang to preserve his trade deal.

“Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal. And I made a great deal, US$250 billion potentially worth of purchases,” the president explained. “And when you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on — we’ve done a lot. I put tariffs on China, which are far worse than any sanction you can think of.”

Whoever is the most “effective and efficient”

Trump’s prioritization of the US economy doesn’t seem to concern some Hong Kongers. “Trump gained a lot of the support last year for taking a strong stance against China, and a lot of the praise was that he actually take action in sanctioning China and persuading the Western world that China is a threat,” explained a Hong Konger.

“For a lot of the people [in Hong Kong], they don’t care what the ideals and the policies of the two US parties, but they see whoever are effective and efficient in helping them … And even though I am a traditionally left-leaning person when it comes to politics, I have to admit that Trump did a lot of good things for Hong Kong,” the source added.

Another Hong Konger labeled Trump as “A very powerful and daring figure.”

“His foreign policy towards China shows a lot during these 3.5 years … There is a saying here, if Trump loses, Hong Kong will lose as well.”

Through social media, prominent Hong Kong lobbyists are also swaying public opinion toward the right.

Elmer Yuen — a Hong Kong entrepreneur and pro-democracy advocate — has cemented his role on the island as an authoritative voice on China-US-Hong Kong matters. Yuen has often claimed that the Republican Party is the one and only option for the people of Hong Kong.

Other prominent figures include US politicians Solomon Yue — one of the first US politicians to comment publicly on the Hong Kong issue garnering wide-reaching support from the locals to the point where Hong Kong internet users almost named him the godfather of the city. Alongside Yue is US Senator Marco Rubio, another fervent Twitter user and outspoken critic of the CCP, two things Hong Kongers appreciate.

A Biden presidency for Hong Kong

However, not everyone agrees that Trump is the answer to Hong Kong’s problems.

A 22-year-old university student in the city explained, “Many Hong Kongers have a perception that Trump is anti-CCP,” said the source. But “he’s a businessman and opportunist.”

The source further added, “I [don’t] support Biden but if I were to choose between two bad apples I’d stand true to my values. In an ideal world I’d push for supporters of democrats to realize it’s important too to not compromise America’s founding values for the sake of trade and economy.”

This view is also echoed by political expert Minxin Pei. Speaking to The Atlantic, Pei explained, “[Trump] does not really see China as an ideological adversary. Trump can be persuaded if the price is right.”

Under a Biden presidency, many believe the former vice president would likely rekindle the strained ties with old American allies and band together to curb China’s increasing global influence. This is in contrast to Trump’s presidency, which has led to the abandonment of America’s traditional role in the world and the alienation of European and Asian allies have provided China with an opportunity to further exert itself as a global leader and a cooperative international player.

Biden’s stance on China has also unsurprisingly hardened during the election.

In a debate in February of this year, Biden stated that he understood the nature of President Xi. “This is a guy who doesn’t have a democratic — with a small d — bone is his body,” Mr. Biden said at the debate. “This is a guy who is a thug,” he said.

In July, the former vice president addressed Hong Kong and China’s deteriorating situation calling the sweeping national security law a “death blow” to the former colony’s freedoms. In a statement to Reuters, the former vice president and Democratic Presidential nominee stated, “Beijing’s new national security law — enacted in secret and sweeping in scope — is already dealing a death blow to the freedoms and autonomy that set Hong Kong apart from the rest of China.”

However, despite Biden’s pledge to harden the US’ stance in defending Hong Kongers, skeptics remain.

Generally “The image of Biden is really bad [in Hong Kong],” explained an anonymous source. “And it certainly not help when traditionally, democrats are very China-friendly …”

While issues between the two superpowers existed under the Obama administration, centering largely around the hard power buildup in the South China Sea and cybertheft, all in all, Biden and Xi’s relationship remained cordial with Xi calling Biden “my old friend” during a visit to China in 2013. And in 2001, as a senator, Biden helped China enter the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The source further added, that while the term “China Virus” has received considerable backlash, especially in the US, Hong Kongers appreciate it since it ensures “the world knows that it’s China’s inefficient policies and bad protocols [that] allowed the coronavirus outbreak to spread all over the world.” And with that, Trump has persuaded “the Western world that China is a threat.”

Originally published at on October 22, 2020.

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