'HK citizen' identity strongest in 10 years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 December, 2011, 12:00am

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Despite increasing economic integration, locals are viewing themselves more strongly as Hongkongers rather than Chinese citizens than at any time in the past decade, a survey has found.

The poll asked 1,016 city residents to rank the strength of their feelings as 'Hong Kong citizens' on a scale from zero to 10, and found an average rating of 8.23 points, a 10-year high.

Asked the same question about their identity as 'Chinese citizens', the average rating was 7.01 points, a 12-year low. The poll was conducted from December 12-20.

The University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme has conducted such surveys from time to time since the 1997 handover.

Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, the programme's director, said: 'This [trend] is contrary to the [direction of] China's economic development in recent years, so it must be due to factors beyond economic development.' But he stopped short of speculating about the reasons behind the fluctuations in these figures.

The pollsters combined all the survey results into an identity index on a scale from zero to 100. City residents' strongest feelings of identity are as 'Hong Kong citizens', at 79.1 points, followed by 'members of the Chinese race' at 72.5 points.

Then came 'Asians', at 72.1 points; 'Chinese citizens', at 67.9 points; 'global citizens', at 67 points; and finally 'citizens of the People's Republic of China', at 61.1 points.

'The feeling of being 'citizens of the PRC' was the weakest among all identities tested,' Chung said.

Dr Leung Hon-chu, principal lecturer at Baptist University's sociology department, said some recent issues might have discouraged Hongkongers from identifying themselves as Chinese citizens.

He cited the vote-rigging scandal following Hong Kong's recent district council elections, allegedly linked to the central government's influence in local affairs; and Beijing's crackdown on dissidents such as artist-activist Ai Weiwei.

The controversial security arrangements during Vice-Premier Li Keqiang's visit in August could also have affected Hongkongers' impressions of the mainland, he said.

'The sense of identity is not determined by the economic growth [of a place]. Rather, it is related to whether they feel engaged in or contributing to the development [of society as a whole],' Leung said.

'The narrowing of the difference between Hong Kong and the mainland in the political and cultural arenas may prompt fear among locals that democracy and human rights, honoured in the city, could be weakened,' he added.

Political scientist Dr James Sung Lap-kung said the weakening local sense of a 'Chinese citizen' identity could be tied to a wide range of factors to do with China's diplomatic relations as well as social and economic developments.

The recent Wukan protest over confiscated farmland, and demonstrations over a proposed power plant in Haimen, Guangdong, could have affected Hongkongers, Sung said. The small-circle chief executive election might also weaken people's sense of engagement, making them believe Beijing was exerting its influence over the city, he said.

38%

identified themselves as 'Hong Kong citizens

- 17pc identified themselves as 'Chinese citizens'