Official crossed line, HKU poll chief says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2012, 12:00am


A University of Hong Kong academic has deemed as 'politically motivated' a Beijing official's criticism of its survey, which found that locals view themselves more as Hongkongers than Chinese citizens.

In heated remarks on a radio show yesterday, Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, head of HKU's public opinion programme, which released the survey, said it was 'difficult to comprehend' why Hao Tiechuan had questioned its accuracy.

The survey of 1,016 respondents, issued last Wednesday, found that residents identified more strongly as Hongkongers than Chinese citizens.

Hao, a director general of publicity, cultural and sports affairs at the central government's liaison office, said in response that the poll questions were posed in an 'illogical' and 'unscientific' way.

'His comments were very general,' Chung said. 'He might just have wanted to point out a problem in this kind of research, but he did not go further. His comments were merely from a political point of view and deviated from academic research,' he said.

Chung noted that the type of identity analysis used in the survey had been done since the 1980s, and that Hao was in effect renouncing two decades of research.

The identity analysis centred on respondents' emotional attachment rather than their actual nationality, Chung said. Rather than being divisive, such analysis made it possible to study social cohesion, he said.

'The public are now focusing on a very narrow point of the survey, but the analysis could actually be a great help to the whole country and ethnic group,' he said.

The poll, which is administered every six months, found respondents' strength of feeling as 'Hong Kong citizens' reached a 10-year-high, while their sense of being Chinese citizens was at a 12-year-low.

Hao said on Thursday that people should not differentiate between being a Hong Kong citizen and Chinese citizen since Hong Kong is part of China.

He said a person identifying as a Hong Kong citizen logically meant he or she was a Chinese citizen.

A more apt question, Hao argued, was whether respondents viewed themselves as either British or Chinese citizens. Chung welcomed this suggestion, saying he would consider adding the question in a future survey.

Chung also reiterated his plans to conduct a city-wide vote two days before the Election Committee would select Hong Kong's next chief executive in March. This would give voters a chance to reveal their favoured bets, while at the same time testing a cost-efficient electronic voting system that the city might want to adopt in future elections, he said.