American expats get set for election results parties in Hong Kong as polls open across the US

Republican and Democrat voters have vowed to keep things civil as the divisive election race comes to an end

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 November, 2016, 7:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 November, 2016, 9:09am

With the US presidential election only hours away and the race between the two candidates tight, American expats in Hong Kong are anxiously preparing to head out to viewing parties across the city, where Democrats and Republicans alike have vowed to keep things civil, whatever the result.

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) will be hosting a viewing at its Jones Lang La Salle office in Wan Chai, which is scheduled to kick off at 7am on Wednesday. Both Democrat and Republican organisations in the city said they would attend the event.

Tariq Dennison, the secretary of Republicans Overseas Hong Kong, said: “The election will be very emotional for lots of Americans inside or outside the country as the election has been very divisive.”

But he said he believed the event would be non-violent as “Americans in Hong Kong tend to be a civil bunch”. He said Republicans Overseas had successfully collaborated with Democrats Abroad Hong Kong in hosting a number of mock debates over the past few months.

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According to Queenie Li, a membership relations manager at AmCham, the viewing party, which is sold out, is expecting more than 500 attendees on Wednesday morning. Kurt W. Tong, the Consul General representing the United States to Hong Kong and Macau, will also speak at the event.

Besides AmCham’s party, Democrats Abroad will also host a breakfast party at 7am at a Belgian beerhouse in Central. According to Shaun Barnes, the chairman of the organisation, about 60 people have RSVPed to the event invitation.

Democrats Abroad has already planned a victory celebration on Wednesday night at Little Creatures, a bar in Kennedy Town. “I am confident that Hillary will win. She was never really behind in the polls,” Barnes said.

He said some members of his organisation will also attend the AmCham party and their interactions with Republicans will be civil.

Unlike Democrats Abroad, Republicans Overseas will not host events on election day due to a shortage of volunteers. In addition, the American Club, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and Thompson Reuters will also organise viewing parties.

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Dennison said Americans in Hong Kong tend to lean to the left in their political views.

“As I understand it, there are about sixty to eighty thousand Americans in Hong Kong and active members of both party organisations here are about one thousand,” he said. “[But] at the last AmCham election event [in 2012], about 77 per cent of the people leaned left.”

AmCham was unable to confirm this number at the time of press.

Dennison said Trump’s popularity is not accurately represented among Americans in Hong Kong and Trump’s message, which targets the domestic white working class, might not therefore appeal to voters here. “But when I went back to Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida, I saw Trump signs everywhere.

“American expats here in Hong Kong are not natural Trump supporters,” he said. “They might have lived in San Francisco or New York and spent a lot of their life living overseas.”

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But he said although people with cosmopolitan lifestyles struggle to relate to Trump, conservatism in general still appeals to voters who have lived in Hong Kong.

“If you think about the Republican ideal, it’s looking for a place like Hong Kong,” he said. “It’s a place with very light and efficient government, with very low tax and a very pro-business environment. Even on social issues, it’s place with a very strong emphasis on a strong family.”

He said although he was a supporter for Marco Rubio in the primary and Trump is his fifth choice from the Republican camp, he said Trump is not “this raging rapist sexist monster that everyone is thinking about”.

In response, Barnes said he personally had not met a Trump supporter in Hong Kong.

“I don’t think it’s just the Democrats. Most people have difficulties relating to Trump’s message.”