As the British Government unveils the conditions under which almost three million Hong Kong residents might be able to attain British National Overseas citizenship, tensions between the Special Administrative Region and mainland China remain high. Last month, a controversial new national security law was introduced in Hong Kong, which is set to criminalise secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces, therefore curtailing protests and freedom of speech.
In this context, Redfield & Wilton Strategies conducted a poll to investigate public perceptions of China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Hong Kong, and whether they had changed since our previous poll, conducted before the new law was introduced.
Beijing’s efforts to strengthen its influence over Hong Kong have been met by growing calls for the region to cut off ties with mainland China. Our poll found that whilst one fifth of respondents would rather Hong Kong be an independent country, and 12% prefer being under Beijing’s direct central authority, almost half (49%) of respondents favour the continuation of “one country, two systems.”
However, despite their preference for the continuation of the current system, a majority (55%) of those who support the “one country, two systems” arrangement say yes, they believe that it is currently at risk of being eroded.
Fears of the current system being eroded were accentuated in large part by the imposition of the new national security law. This measure has brought widespread international condemnation from politicians and the media in the West, and our poll found that the new law has made a plurality in Hong Kong (42%) feel less safe. Only 34% say the new national security law actually makes them feel safer in Hong Kong. Furthermore, opinion was split over whether the new law compromises freedoms and liberties, with 34% agreeing and 33% disagreeing.
Still, a significant portion of the population indicated their concern for the preservation of individual freedoms and liberties. When questions turned to acts of defiance against the Chinese Communist Party, results suggested a significant minority would engage in various forms of activism. Although a minority, the proportion of respondents who claimed they would consider more direct forms of engagement such as joining protesters (45%), refusing to pay taxes (40%) and rent (28%), and withdrawing money from the bank (44%) was still significant enough to be a genuine concern for authorities, and demonstrates a considerable degree of determination among Hong Kongers to protect their democratic and legal rights. Indeed, only a third (33%) said they would do nothing in the event of increasing CCP control in Hong Kong. Despite the new challenges to protesting posed by the new national security law, these results represent a slight increase in the proportion willing to engage in direct action compared to our poll last month.
A whole quarter of respondents claimed, yes, they would be willing to risk their life to defend the freedom of Hong Kong, while fewer than half (47%) said, no, they would not. This proportion is somewhat lower than the 29% recorded before the new security law was introduced, but this change is within the margin of error, suggest that the Hong Kong public remains just as likely to defy the CCP as it was last month.
Whilst the Hong Kong public broadly opposes the CCP, they hold more ambivalent views of Chinese people and culture. On the one hand, 74% of respondents said they felt some degree of attachment to China’s people and culture.
On the other hand, the same proportion (74%) maintain that Hong Kong is culturally distinct from mainland China. Overall, while our respondents recognise the common features both populations share, they are equally likely to point out the differences.
On the whole, whilst the proportions of the Hong Kong population, who favour a different system and believe the new security law compromises their freedoms and liberties and makes them less safe, do not quite constitute majorities, they do appear to comprise an extremely fervent and resolute set of proponents. Compared to last month, similar proportions of the population are prepared to engage in various forms of activism, despite the new law rendering such acts far more dangerous, with sentences possibly reaching life imprisonment.
To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.