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There’s no debate – censorship limits live access in China to Clinton-Trump face-off

Censorship will prevent most people on the mainland from watching US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump square off in their first live debate.

But some in Beijing will be able to catch the event at upscale hotels and bars live or after it is broadcast on Tuesday morning,.

Hong Kong will be watching the much-anticipated event in real time on television after hundreds of Republicans and Democrats based in the city attended a mock debate on Monday night.

The showdown marks the start of the seven-week home stretch in the race between Democratic nominee Clinton and her ­Republican counterpart Trump.

Kenn Bermel, the owner of The Local, a pub in Beijing’s Sanlitun entertainment district, said his venue would play a taped version of the show at 7pm in the bar.

“We did consider a live broadcast, but it’s unlikely anyone would show up – it would be at 9am or so,” Bermel said.

He planned to watch the event live via satellite TV, which is mostly restricted to hotels with at least three stars or selected high-end residential compounds.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China has organised a sold-out live broadcast of the debate at the JW Marriott Hotel in Beijing.

Democrats Abroad is also hosting a live broadcast today at a bar in Wudaokou, in the city’s northwest university district.

But most people on the mainland face difficulties finding a way to watch the candidates argue their policy points – Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, the top social media players live-streaming the event, are all blocked.

An editor at a popular mainland news portal said strict censorship prevented news websites from presenting such an event.

“News websites cannot touch politics now,” the editor said.

State broadcaster CCTV did not reply to questions about its coverage of the debate.

But in the US, Kecheng Fang, founder of CNPolitics.org, an independent website publishing academic studies on China for the Chinese public, said it would offer a live show on its WeChat account in the lead-up to the debate to give viewers “some background knowledge” of the process.

Fang, a doctoral candidate at Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, said the debate would be dominated by domestic issues and most Chinese people would struggle to “get the point”.

“Even if the candidates mentioned policies about China or Asia, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they would debate it from the perspective of an American, and as a Chinese, it would be complicated,” he said.

“I want to explain more about the nature of presidential debates, its rules and procedures, and to explain how [the presidential debate] works as a key part of a democratic system.”

At the University of Hong Kong on Monday, American groups in the city were able to reach out to a well-informed audience through their mock debate.

Representing Democrats Abroad were Nicholas Gordon, from a locally based think tank, and Julie Yoon, from a consulting firm. On the other side, writer Kym Kettler-Paddock teamed up with Aaron Goach,vice-chairman of Republicans Overseas Hong Kong.

Gordon attacked Trump’s controversial rhetoric. “How would Trump govern a divided America ?” he asked.

Kettler-Paddock blamed the “media’s biased role” partly for Trump’s negative image, while Goach said the lack of support from some Republicans had made him more determined to vote for Trump.

The debate was held minus the usual fireworks when supporters of the two candidates clash in the US.