Locals' identity as Chinese citizens hits 13-year low

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 12:00am


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Hong Kong people's sense of identity as Chinese citizens has plunged to a 13-year low in a poll taken amid public anger at the death of Tiananmen Square activist Li Wangyang .

The survey of 1,001 adults asked them to rank the strength of their feelings as 'Chinese citizens' on a scale from zero to 10, and found an average rating of 6.99 points, the lowest since the end of 1999. It was 7.01 points in December.

The poll by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme was carried out from June 13 to 20, days after tens of thousands of people took to the street to demand a probe into Li's death.

The plunge in sentiment was particularly noticeable among young people which programme director Robert Chung Ting-yiu said warranted special attention.

For the age group between 18 and 29, the rating dropped to 5.07 points, a full point lower than six months ago.

'In-depth analysis shows that the rating of those under 30 years of age has continued to drop since mid-2009,' Chung said. 'This warrants special attention.'

The rating for this group in June 2009 was 7.2 points.

Overall, the strength of feeling as 'Hong Kong citizens' also fell, sliding to 8.11 points, down 1.7 points from December.

But the percentages of those identifying themselves as 'Hong Kong citizens' or 'Hong Kong people' in a broad sense have reached a record high since the polls began after the 1997 handover.

Some 46 per cent of respondents identified themselves as 'Hong Kong citizens' while 68 per cent regarded themselves as 'Hong Kong people' either as 'Hong Kong citizens' or 'Chinese Hong Kong citizens'.

Dr Leung Hon-chu, principal lecturer at Baptist University's sociology department, said the 13-year low in the sense of identity as 'Chinese citizens' could be partly due to perceptions of curbs by mainland authorities on dissidents.

'I suspect that it could be linked to the controversy over Li Wangyang's death and other human rights activists,' he said.

Crippled dissident Li was found hanged in a hospital in Hunan province early this month days after giving an interview to a Hong Kong television station about being tortured in jail and his faith in democracy.

In May, blind activist Chen Guangcheng fled house arrest to seek protection in the US embassy in Beijing.

On the particularly low rating as 'Chinese citizens' among those aged 18 to 29, Leung said: 'It could possibly be related to the medium they use to achieve information. The discussion on rights activists like Li Wangyang is rampant on the internet.'

Last week, another poll by the programme found that 37 per cent of 1,003 respondents - up 3 percentage points from March - distrusted Beijing.

Fifty-one per cent of people had confidence in the principle of 'one country, two systems', down 4 percentage points from three months ago, its findings showed.


The percentage in the poll who identified themselves as 'Hong Kong citizens'