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Chinese American supporters of Trump and Clinton face off in debate of their own

Chinese American voters will hold a debate highlighting key issues affecting their community ahead of the second Trump-Clinton face-off in the US presidential race.

The debate between teams supporting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump will be held in Washington today, on the eve of the Sunday’s second presidential debate.

Organiser Jay Song, president of Washington Chinese Media, said the Clinton and Trump campaigns had both paid close attention to the Chinese community debate, which might help influence undecided voters ahead of next month’s election.

“We’ve seen unprecedented enthusiasm among Chinese Americans in this election and such a debate will definitely help raise the profile of the Chinese community,” Song said. “It will help our voters better understand where the candidates stand on the issues we care most about and how we are going to be affected by their policies.”

He said most Chinese Americans were particularly concerned about equal opportunity in education, illegal immigration and US President Barack Obama’s controversial policy on transgender students.

Many Chinese immigrants said they welcomed the debate, to be broadcast live online (http://wcmi.us/), and saw it as an opportunity to make their political views heard. It has also been endorsed by the Chinese embassy in Washington, which is encouraging eligible voters to go to the polls next month.

Clinton supporter Paul Zhu, who will take part in the debate, said he looked forward to the exchanges with Trump supporters.

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“We are trying to engage with swing voters in the lead-up to the election and we want to make use of every opportunity to win their support,” said Zhu, who moved to the US from mainland China in 1987.

Zhu said the stakes were too high in this year’s election and that was why he had decided to voluntarily campaign for Clinton.

“I don’t want Trump to win because he embodies the exact opposite of American values and we cannot afford to let such an irrational, erratic and evil force triumph over the democratic values of the US,” he said.

Jenny Hou, another Clinton supporter, said her team had won the support from the Clinton campaign.

“We’ve kept close communications with the Clinton campaign,” she said. “Initially they asked us to focus on campaigning for the candidate rather than the debate, but we managed to convince them that such an event, discussing major topics concerning the Chinese community in Mandarin, will garner widespread public attention and help reach out to the new Chinese immigrants, who may lack proficiency in English.”

Representing Trump supporters in the debate, Cliff Li, executive director of the National Committee of Asian American Republicans, said he believed the event would help Trump.

“The best part of such a debate is to help people make rational, informed decision in the election,” he said.

Song and participants in the debate, the first such event staged by the Chinese community in the US, said it would lift the political involvement of Chinese Americans to a new level.

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“One of the reasons we’re holding the debate is because we’ve heard lots of complaints that online political discussions have too often turned into ugly personal attacks and bitter feuds, which are detrimental to uniting Chinese Americans into a strong political force,” Song said.

But not all Chinese immigrants appear to share the same vision. Chinese Americans for Trump, a popular grass-roots organisation, decided recently to pull out of the debate due to disagreements with other Trump supporters.

Li issued a statement describing the group’s decision as “unreasonable and unwise” and “a mistake detrimental to an election as close as this one”.

Zhang Wei, a leader of Chinese Americans for Trump in Virginia, declined to comment on the last-minute decision to withdraw from the debate. “We’ll have more practical work to do,” he said.