Australia Australia's Taiwan and Hong Kong diaspora 'conflicted' about whether they want Donald Trump to win the US election

21:40  29 october  2020
21:40  29 october  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: William Lin believes a second Trump term would safeguard Taiwanese people's freedom. (Supplied) © Provided by ABC NEWS William Lin believes a second Trump term would safeguard Taiwanese people's freedom. (Supplied)

William Lin hopes Donald Trump wins next week's US election because he believes it is "a matter of life or death" for his home country of Taiwan.

The president of Victoria's Taiwanese Association told the ABC the US election had made him reflect between his "ideals" and "reality".

"Because the threat of military confrontation [between Taiwan and China] is so serious now, I absolutely want him to win," he said.

Like many others among Australia's Hong Kong and Taiwan diaspora, Mr Lin believes a second Trump term would safeguard their people's freedom.

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They have warmed to the Trump administration's China policy, specifically those that target Beijing over its behaviour in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Both are claimed by China, but only Hong Kong is formally under Beijing's grip.

Hong Kong has been a semi-autonomous part of China since the 1997 handover, but many believe the territory is increasingly losing its autonomy.

And while China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province, Taipei considers itself independent.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said he would not rule out the use of force to take Taiwan, and Beijing has increased its sabre-rattling near the island.

Nearly 40 Chinese fighter jets have crossed the midline of the Taiwan Strait in the past month, entering Taiwan's south-western air defence identification zone.

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While Washington has no diplomatic ties with Taipei, the United States under Mr Trump has increasingly shown support for Taiwan, prompting a denunciation by China.

This week, Beijing announced plans to impose sanctions on Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense, Raytheon and other US companies it said were involved in Washington's planned arms sales to Taiwan.

The US State Department last week approved a potential $US1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) arms sale to Taiwan, including sensors, missiles and artillery.

Mr Lin said this security backdrop was what had propelled him to support Mr Trump, who had responded to Taiwan's need for defence.

"The US will not [abandon] Taiwan's protection," he said.

Some want Trump to win, but don't share his values

Michael Wong, a 28-year-old from Hong Kong now based in Australia, is also supportive of a second Trump term for geopolitical reasons, but he said he was not naive to Mr Trump's real intentions.

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"In the end, I don't believe that his purpose is purely just fighting for freedom for Hong Kong people," he said.

"You can tell that he is not very keen on the value of democracy at all … I think he just used Hong Kong as a weapon or tool to go against China."

But for Mr Wong, Mr Trump is also one of the few global figures who is powerful enough to be able to advocate for their freedoms and keep China in check.

Earlier this year, Beijing imposed its National Security Law on Hong Kong after an almost year-long protest movement against China's growing encroachment on Hong Kong's sovereignty.

Critics say the law dissolves Hong Kong's constitutionally protected freedoms, while others believe the city is no longer a safe haven for Chinese mainland dissidents.

In July 2019, Mr Trump signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act — passed with bipartisan support — into law, which punishes Chinese officials and entities believed to be violating the city's autonomy.

Democratic presidential contender and former vice-president Joe Biden has also signalled he would prosecute a tougher line on Beijing compared to previous administrations, including his own.

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"The United States does need to get tough with China," Mr Biden wrote in Foreign Policy magazine earlier this year.

"The most effective way to meet that challenge is to build a united front of US allies and partners to confront China's abusive behaviours and human rights violations, even as we seek to cooperate with Beijing."

On his official campaign website, Mr Biden has also pledged to "confront" China's "growing strength of autocratic powers and their efforts to divide and manipulate democracies".

But despite Mr Biden's pledges, Mr Wong isn't convinced.

He still wants Mr Trump to win even though he doesn't share many of the President's values.

"It's very contradictory," Mr Wong said.

"[My] rationale here is emotional. We feel hopeless, so that we want to have someone to actually do something for us."

While he disagrees with Mr Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement's demands, Mr Wong said the fate of the US election could end up deciding the fate of his home city.

"I understand that it is hard to keep the value that we have, therefore, we try to look for someone that can actually do something for us — it's actually quite sad," he said.

Trump's supporters in Hong Kong and Taiwan

According to a recent poll by the global public opinion and data company YouGov, residents in Taiwan rate Mr Trump highly.

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It found Taiwan was the only place in the Asia Pacific where Mr Trump is a preferred candidate.

Mr Trump's next strongest support base was in Hong Kong, where he is preferred by 36 per cent of the people compared to 42 per cent who supported Mr Biden.

"President Trump is clearly seen by Taiwanese people as the candidate more likely to improve US-Taiwan relations," the report found.

"Hongkongers are also more likely to see him as the superior choice for the American economy."

However, the poll also showed nearly half of those who preferred Mr Trump over Mr Biden in both Taiwan and Hong Kong didn't feel good about how the President did his job.

"That is a sign that Hong Kong people are desperate," Mr Wong said.

[Chart: Who do people in APAC want to win the US election]

An Australian citizen who only wants to be known as Conor (not his real name) for the fear of prosecution, said many Hongkongers like him were expecting Mr Trump to continue his hard-line China policy in the next term, which gave him and his peers hope of change in the city.

But he said this left them in a similar situation to Mr Wong.

"[We're] a conflicted bunch … We aren't totally with the Trump administration," Conor said.

"Hong Kong, as you may know, is a very hygiene-conscious place after the 2003 SARS epidemic. And we don't necessarily agree with a lot of the [COVID-19] handling from his administration.

"I think on China policy … Mr Trump would be a better leader, only because he has been willing to be more outspoken against human rights violations [in Hong Kong]."

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Trump isn't a catalyst, Congress is

Hong Kong has been a major point of contention between Washington and Beijing, with US politicians of all persuasions coming out in support of Hong Kong.

Congress's passage of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act led Beijing to strongly condemn Washington for its "gross interference" in China's internal affairs.

Beijing said Washington had "violated international law and the basic norms underpinning" China-US relations.

Alfred Wu, an associate professor in international relations from the National University of Singapore, said many pro-democracy advocates "misunderstood" that Mr Trump was behind support for Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Instead, he said the real power was parliamentary.

"I don't think the position of the US Congress is going to change much," Dr Wu told the ABC.

Dr Wu said he believed many Hongkongers and Taiwanese people wanted Mr Trump to win because they thought his China policy was more predictable, and he was likely to continue his anti-Beijing policies in his second term.

This certainly holds true for Mr Wong, who is concerned his family and friends in his home city of Hong Kong are gradually losing their freedom to speak openly about politics.

However, he conceded that people in Hong Kong and Taiwan needed to rely on their own efforts — rather than on geopolitics — to protect their own freedoms.

"You can't really rely on any other countries to do that," he said.

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