Beijing envoy criticises HKU poll
A senior Hong Kong-based central government envoy has criticised as 'unscientific' and 'illogical' the way questions were posed in a recent University of Hong Kong survey that found that locals identified themselves more strongly as Hongkongers than as Chinese citizens.
The comments yesterday by Hao Tiechuan, of the central government's liaison office, marked a rare attack against an academic survey, apparently because the findings were deemed undesirable.
In an informal meeting where only some local television reporters were invited, Hao, director general of the office's department of publicity, cultural and sports affairs, said the poll was wrong to give respondents the options of 'Hong Kong citizens' and 'Chinese citizens', as if they were separate.
Hao reportedly said that since the handover, there should not be any difference between viewing oneself as a 'Hong Kong citizen' and 'Chinese citizen'. He said Hong Kong was now an administrative region of China and it was only logical for a person to mean he is a 'Chinese citizen' when referring to 'Hong Kong citizen', according to television reports.
Cable TV also quoted Hao as saying: 'Hong Kong is not an independent political entity. If [a Hong Kong citizen] is not a Chinese citizen, which country's citizen would he be?' The correct approach, he said, should be to ask respondents whether they viewed themselves as 'British citizens' or 'Chinese citizens', according to television reports.
The reports said Hao was speaking in a personal capacity.
In response, Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, director of the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, said he welcomed comments, and that 'academic discussions should remain academic'. He would consider adding the option of 'British citizen' for polls, he said.
In Chung's poll, released on Wednesday, over 1,000 respondents were asked to rank how strongly they felt a 'Hong Kong citizen' from zero to 10, with 10 being highest. It found an average rating of 8.23 points, a 10-year high. As for their identity as 'Chinese citizens', the average strength was 7.01 points, a 12-year low.
Combined into an 'identity index' on a scale from zero to 100, the poll results showed that city residents' strongest feelings of identity were as 'Hong Kong citizens', at 79.1 points. At 61.1 points, the feeling of being 'citizens of the People's Republic of China' was the weakest among all identities tested.
Those identities included 'members of the Chinese race' (72.5 points), 'Asians' (72.1 points) and 'Chinese citizens' (67.9 points).
In 2007, President Hu Jintao called for 'strengthening national education among Hong Kong youth'. Since then, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has pledged the government's commitment to 'strengthen students' sense of national identity and commitment to national development'. Hong Kong's government has said it wants to implement a national education curriculum to primary and secondary schools as early as 2012.
Strength of feeling, out of 100, city residents had for the identity 'global citizen'