U.S. ELECTION

‘There’s nothing to be ashamed of’: why Chinese Americans are taking to the streets to back Trump

Support for ‘family values’ and a tough stance on illegal immigration are among the issues resonating with supporters of the Republicans’ presidential candidate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 3:06pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 2016, 3:06pm

At first glance, the crowd outside Trump Tower on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue could be protesters.

With only days to go until the US presidential election, hundreds of people holding banners and flags hand out fliers and chant slogans.

But a second look at the “Make America Great Again” signs and the red T-shirts with “Chinese Americans love Trump” in English and Chinese make it all clear.

“Is that a protest?” a passer-by asked. “No, wait … Chinese Americans for Trump.”

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The event in support of Republican candidate Donald Trump was organised by the New York branch of “Chinese Americans for Trump”, a grassroots volunteer group forged in the heat of this year’s campaign.

The participants in the rally were mainly Chinese immigrants from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They were mostly middle aged or older and seemed a little uncomfortable trying to explain their support for Trump to passers-by.

But they went out on the streets to air their views on immigration and traditional values.

“We come out because we are very anxious and worried. The United States is in dangerous trouble and the result of this election is critical to us,” retired businesswoman Fu Xiaobo said.

She said the danger was caused by the Democratic Party, with President Barack Obama’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender policies undermining traditional family values and an “open immigration policy” ruining the country’s economy and order.

Why are recent Chinese immigrants supporting Trump?

Lucy Liu, holding a sign saying “Support Trump, Keep Law and Order”, said immigration was also one of her concerns.

Liu said she had witnessed the refugee crisis and terrorist attacks in Paris and did not want the United States to become like Europe.

“I don’t want so many illegal immigrants. They just take so many more social benefits than they pay. We are legal immigrants. We love this country. We work hard and we make contributions,” she shouted at passers-by.

Hong Kong-born Steven Cheung, a real estate broker in his 70s, said Chinese were traditionally very wary of public displays of political views, but he wanted to stand up for his children’s future.

“People should step forward. There is nothing to be ashamed of,” Cheung said. “I vote for policy, not personality.”

Trump’s policies, including his stress on law and order, tax cuts and putting American citizens first were appealing, said entrepreneur Jeffery Liu. Trump also represented the Asian value of pragmatism, hard work and honesty, he said. “He has proven his leadership and capability with a successful enterprise.”

The Trump Tower crowd included at least one member of the Democratic Party. Cardiologist Gary Chen said he voted for Hillary Clinton when she ran for New York State Senate in 2000 and 2006, plus the Democratic candidacy in 2008 but could no longer support her policies.

“I don’t know how good Trump could do, but it’s so clear Hillary is now on the opposite of Chinese Americans’ interests. I cannot vote for her,” he said.

Among the issues cropping up again and again was the Democratic Party’s support for affirmative action which allows more people from underprivileged backgrounds to get a place at university. Some students with Asian backgrounds say it has unfairly penalised their efforts to be accepted at a college, even if they have higher grades.

“We Chinese are always being bullied in the US,” rally organiser Jack Jia said. “We want us to be seen on the mainstream media.”

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Investment consultant Howard Chen said the rally was bigger than he expected and an opportunity for the Chinese American community to play a part in politics.

“The Trump rally is also a chance for us to unite. We American Chinese should take part in politics ... and run for local administrations. We are at the bottom of the food chain and we must unite to speak out.”

But one quest for visibility failed. Chinese Americans for Trump groups across the country have chartered planes to fly banners in support of the candidate across different cities. On the day of the protest, however, the view of the “NY Chinese Americans for Trump” slogan flown in the skies above the Hudson River was blocked – by the Trump Tower.