Though the majority of Asian Americans are disappointed in the result of the election, a not small number of Chinese Americans have been supporting Donald Trump, among them an unlikely group — Chinese human rights advocates who currently work and live in the US, some of them naturalized citizens.
Their support would come as a surprise for some given the candidates' histories with human rights. Trump's views on China make their allegiance particularly puzzling, especially given his comments in 1990, when he said the Chinese government showed “the power of strength” in cracking down on students who protested in Tiananmen Square the earlier year. (Trump later denied that he was endorsing Beijing's tactics in his Playboy magazine comment.)
That didn't stop Chen Guangcheng, the famous blind, self-taught lawyer, from throwing his endorsement to Trump. Chen, who fled the country with the help of the then Secretary of State, last year contradicted Clinton's narrative about his flight, saying that he took a bad deal with the Chinese government under pressure. At 3 AM Wednesday, he tweeted out "congratulations to Mr. Trump for being elected the 45th President of the US!!!" in Chinese.
Chinese dissidents in the US might disagree with each other on China-related issues, but nothing at this point has divided them further than the 2016 US election. Tensions have been so high that the Trump supporters among them have blocked the Clinton supporters on social media and vice versa.
Wen Yunchao, a Clinton supporter based in New York and regular contributor to VOA Chinese, categorizes the Chinese dissidents who support Trump into three groups: those who believe Trump's administration will have a tougher attitude similar towards the Chinese government; those who dislike where the US is heading as a country and didn't see change happening under Clinton; and those who converted to Christianity and were taking a stand against issues like abortion and marriage equality.
That categorization seemed to bear out in the interviews BuzzFeed News conducted with Trump supporters, none of whom voiced similar reasoning for backing the now president-elect. "To some extent, Trump will prevent the US from entering an ultra-left [politics]," Li Jianglin, a renowned historian who chronicles Tibetan history under China's rule, told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview. "We were electing a president not a saint, otherwise it'll be easy — Dalai Lama or the Pope could have fit the role."
He Qinglian, a New Jersey-based VOA Chinese columnist and good friend of Li Jianglin, said that she supports Trump's policies for the sake of the US. She asked whether it is right for a mother to feed others when her own child is hungry during a phone interview with BuzzFeed News, saying that Europe shouldn't accept so many refugees when homeless people in their own countries also need help.
As for human rights issues in China, she believes that Republicans will advocate for different issues than Democrats, such as the countering country's family planning policies.
Li said that she has stopped following "mainstream media" on social media but agrees with the values of Wikileaks. Being very familiar with the propaganda strategies of the Chinese Communist Party, she said, she resents the extreme different portraits the two have received. She said that as a scholar she is issue-oriented but the election coverage overlooked many detailed issues, over-simplified right or wrong and that the pressure of political correctness has her mouth shut even among her neighbors in Allentown, PA.
Li said she that even post election she is still trying to convince her daughter, who works for a DC-based LGBT rights advocacy NGO, to "think a step deeper" when it comes to advocating for minority rights over the rights of all. "Please don't tell me you are voting for Trump," she said her daughter told her earlier in a message.
Despite voting for Trump, Li remained wary of what Trump would do once in office, urging her daughter to stay involved in keeping him in check. "Accept him, we don't go back and say we selected a jerk," Li says she wants to tell her daughter. "Don't escape. Participate, defend people you care about [...] Now is the time to lock Trump's power in a cage," she said.