Trust in Hong Kong and central government falls to 2003 levels

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 8:54am

All indicators of public trust and confidence in the Hong Kong and central governments have plunged to the level of 2003 - when more than 500,000 Hong Kong people took to the streets - or below, according to a poll that has been running since before the handover.

The survey found the proportion of Hong Kong people who distrust the central government has reached a record high of 45 per cent, while 37 per cent said they distrusted the Hong Kong government - a figure comparable to that of December 2003.

Academics say restoring mutual trust between the government and its people should now be at the top of the official agenda to defuse a "worrying" situation and avoid a deepening crisis.

More than 1,000 people were interviewed by the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Programme between June 10 and 13 on their trust and confidence in the government and in Hong Kong's future.

About 32 per cent said they trusted the government, a drop of 12 percentage points from the same survey in March, while those who distrusted it rose from 26 per cent to 37 per cent. Only one in four said they trusted the Beijing government, in contrast to 45 per cent who said the opposite.

For the first time since the handover, people who were confident in "one country, two systems" failed to outnumber those who had no confidence.

Both sides stood at 47 per cent in the latest poll. The last time no confidence equalled or surpassed confidence was August 1996, when 35 per cent felt confident and 39 per cent did not. Pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu said the figures presented "a worrying situation".

The director of the public governance programme at Lingnan University, Dr Li Pang-kwong, said it was apparent that the governance under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was plagued by a lack of trust.

"The lack of trust has put the government in an unfavourable position, as the public will always cast doubt on its policies, which will take time to show their effects," Li said. "It has now become an urgent issue to restore trust, or his governance could be dragged deeper into crisis."

But Li said the July 1 rally this year was unlikely to match the size of that in 2003.

Leung said last night "one country, two systems" has been well implemented. "If anyone thinks there are any problems with its implementation, we should step up publicity on the Basic Law," he said.

A political scientist at Chinese University, Ma Ngok, said recent scandals involving top officials, such as former chief graft-buster Timothy Tong Hin-ming and former executive councillor Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, had further weakened public trust in the government.