Public trust in government and business falling, says survey

HK fares poorly in global poll, with PR agency saying bad communications partly to blame

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 1:57am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 3:09pm

Hongkongers' faith in business and government is plummeting, according to a survey by public relations agency Edelman.

Trust in government fell 18 points to 45 per cent - the steepest drop of the 27 countries included in the global survey of 33,000 people. The survey found public trust in Hong Kong business fell 11 points to 49 per cent, the third biggest decline of surveyed nations.

So if you don’t trust government, you won’t trust business

Professor Eliza Lee Wing-yee, the head of politics and public administration at the University of Hong Kong, said Hongkongers' loss of trust in government and business was connected.

"There has been a lot of talk about declining trust in the government due to policy failure, legitimacy problems and scandals," she said. "As for business, people talk about a collusion with the government. They think the government protects business interests, so if you don't trust government, you won't trust business."

Lee said the Occupy Central movement and the dockworkers' strike against Hutchison Port last year were evidence of diminishing faith in Hong Kong's institutions.

"There is a general sense of injustice, and people attribute this injustice to those holding political and economic power, which is highly interrelated," she said.

Professor Denis Wang Yu-long, the director of Chinese University's School of Hotel and Tourism Management, said there were on average two robberies a day in Hong Kong, and 19 government protests. Hongkongers were law-abiding but increasingly prone to act out against government.

"The reason why Hong Kong is prosperous, why Hong Kong asset prices always increase, is because we are not just another Chinese city. If we were harmonious and compliant, then we would be no different from other Chinese cities," Wang said.

Alan Vandermolen, a vice-chairman of Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, the parent company of Edelman, said people reacted poorly to acrimonious succession squabbles at large listed firms.

The survey found only 51 per cent of Hongkongers trusted family-owned businesses, compared with a global average of 71 per cent.

Andrew Kirk, the managing director of Edelman Hong Kong, said government and business aggravated trust problems with bad communications.

Kirk said business and government needed to communicate a message of trust, which meant a more humble style where officials embraced dialogue and mistakes were freely discussed.

"You have a modern society where leadership is acting in an antiquated fashion … that's true in Hong Kong and that's true in Japan," he said.