For one American, his stance has cost him

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 October, 2008, 12:00am

While for most people in Hong Kong the battle over who will become the world's most powerful man is forming a noisy, colourful sideshow to the global economic meltdown, for about 50,000 US citizens living in the city it is much more.

So divisive has this particular campaign been that Christopher Exline, who placed a poster for Republican candidate John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, in the window of his Wan Chai shop, has had people cancel orders.

Nevertheless, Mr Exline is proud to rally support for Senator McCain's campaign, even though the poster has cost his Queen's Road East furniture rental firm, Home Essentials.

Losing a few clients is not as important to Mr Exline as the outcome of the election. He believes electing Barack Obama as president will hurt businesses and relations with China, as well as hit the hip pocket of US citizens in Hong Kong.

'McCain is for low tax and constructive engagement with China. He's for free trade. He's for immigration. Barack Obama, while no doubt inspirational, is not.'

Tax is an area where the differing stances of the two candidates could most impact US citizens in Hong Kong, warns Kurt Rademacher, a partner at corporate services firm Withers. 'Obama's plan structurally is more about giving tax breaks to people who aren't very well off; mainly the middle and lower income groups. McCain's is ... focused on stimulating the economy through targeted tax breaks for businesses that want to employ more people or to high-income earners who can reinvest their tax savings.'

Mr Rademacher said most US expatriates in Hong Kong would probably fall into the upper tax bracket for which Senator McCain's proposals seemed more favourable.

'I do believe that people take tax considerations into account when they vote,' he said, 'although I haven't seen a groundswell of opposition to Obama among expats in either Hong Kong or Europe.'

However, one Democrat voter who wished to remain anonymous said he thought there was an 'invisible majority' of Chinese-American voters in the city who would back Senator Obama. 'What people see is the Americans in the Mid-Levels, but there are lots of us who are not as well off,' he said.