Limited Awareness of Hong Kong Situation Among UK Public

May 31, 2020
Hong Kong | Media & Press | Relations with China

In recent days, the Chinese Government has sought to increase the control it exerts over Hong Kong by imposing a new national security law by decree, therefore bypassing Hong Kong’s parliament. Despite the gravity of the situation, a poll conducted on Wednesday last week by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that barely half of UK respondents (54%) had at least a moderate awareness of the increased control being exerted by the Chinese Government in Hong Kong. Conversely, 46% of respondents had only a slight—or no—awareness of the situation. The rate of awareness was significantly higher for older respondents, rising to 67% among those aged 65 and above.

Despite the public’s limited awareness of the situation in Hong Kong, there is nonetheless a majority (57%) who believes Prime Minister Boris Johnson should condemn the repressive measures the Chinese Government has undertaken in Hong Kong. This figure is higher among older respondents, with 67% of those aged 65 and above supporting condemnation, as compared to 47% of those aged 18-24. Support for condemnation is also slightly higher among respondents who voted Conservative (67%) or Liberal Democrat (66%) in the 2019 General Election than among those who voted for Labour (55%). However, there was at least fifty percent support for condemnation across the three parties.

Although the poll found majority support for the UK condemning China’s actions in Hong Kong, a significant proportion of respondents (39%) indicated having no strong opinion on the matter, with 19% responding they neither agree nor disagree that the Prime Minister should condemn China, and a further 20% saying they simply do not know. It was slightly more common for younger respondents to express ambiguity or ignorance of the matter than for older respondents to do so.

Conversely, despite majority support for condemning China’s actions in Hong Kong, only a third of respondents (37%) agreed that the United Kingdom should join the United States and other countries in intervening to protect the people of Hong Kong in the event the Chinese Government sent its military to the territory. Overall, support for multilateral intervention in Hong Kong was significantly higher among male respondents (43%) than female ones (30%).

Surprisingly, younger respondents were more supportive of multilateral intervention, with 45% of those aged 18-24 expressing support, as compared to 31% of those aged 65 and above. It is worth pointing out that the question did not specify whether intervention should be military or in the form of economic sanctions or diplomatic condemnation. Regardless, younger respondents showed themselves more likely to support an intervention to protect the rights of the people of Hong Kong.

Support for multilateral intervention in Hong Kong had similar levels across party lines, suggesting a potential for the country to rally behind the Government on this foreign policy matter. Among respondents who voted Conservative or Liberal Democrat in 2019, support for multilateral intervention was at 40%—only slightly higher than the 36% for Labour-voting respondents.  

It remains to be seen whether the majority support for condemning China’s repressive actions in Hong Kong will translate to support for the UK Government’s recently announced decision to extend the rights of British National Overseas (BNO) passport-holders to come from Hong Kong to the UK. We at Redfield & Wilton Strategies will be conducting further polling and research on the situation in Hong Kong in the coming weeks.

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.