Hongkongers losing faith that city is stable, democratic and free: study
Scores down across the board in survey on public perception; many blame debate on reform
Hongkongers feel less strongly than at any point in the past decade that their city is a stable, democratic and free society, the latest poll by the University of Hong Kong reveals.
HKU polling chief Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu refused to speculate on who was to blame, but politicians from across the spectrum said polarised debates about electoral reform and the Occupy Central movement had contributed to the grim mood.
The twice-yearly survey measures five key social indicators on a scale of 0 to 10. HKU's public opinion programme spoke to 1,017 people from July 21 to 24.
The biggest fall was in the perception of stability, down 0.36 points on the previous survey six months ago. Democracy remained the weakest link with a score of 5.93, down 0.32 points.
The freedom score sank 0.17 points to 7.13. For the subcategories of freedom of publication and of the press, the scores reached their lowest level since the survey began in 1997.
The key indicators - stability, democracy and freedom - were all at their lowest since April 2004. Two more recent additions to the survey, perception of prosperity and of compliance with the rule of law, fell 0.15 and 0.26 points to 6.87 and 6.65, respectively.
"Public sentiment is at risk; we leave it for our readers to judge who is responsible," said Chung.
But the poll comes against the backdrop of growing discord over plans for a democratic election for chief executive in 2017.
Almost 800,000 people voted in June in an unofficial vote by the Occupy Central movement on models for the 2017 poll. But Occupy's plan to block streets in the business hub if the government fails to allow a genuine range of candidates in 2017 has provoked ire. The Alliance for Peace and Democracy says more than one million people have signed its anti-Occupy petition.
Alliance spokesman Robert Chow Yung said Occupy might lead Hongkongers to think the city's stability was at risk. Pan-democratic lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee said the participation of senior government officials in the anti-Occupy petition had polarised the debate on 2017.
Separately, several Beijing loyalists - including Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing and Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Chan Yuen-han - are pondering a petition calling for dialogue across the political spectrum on reform.
One of them, Andrew Fung Ho-keung, chief executive of the Policy Research Institute, said the debate should now focus on consensus, not confrontation.
A person familiar with the matter said dialogue between pan-democrats and mainland officials would start with meetings between them and central government liaison office director Zhang Xiaoming in the next two weeks.
ONE OPINION LESS
A veteran politician has quit a pro-democracy group founded by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, claiming it conflicted with his impartiality as a current affairs television host.
Announcing his decision, Allen Lee Peng-fei (pictured), who served on the Executive Council and as a member of the Legislative Council before the handover, noted that Chan's "politically unwise" visit to the United States in April had angered Beijing, which accused Washington of meddling in its affairs.
Lee felt the group's proposal on electoral reform now had little hope of success. He said: "There is virtually no chance for her moderate political reform proposal to bridge the sharp political divide."
Lee added: "Anson heeded my advice to dispense with public nomination in her blueprint and initially it drew positive feedback from Beijing and its followers in Hong Kong." The proposal, submitted to the government in March, excludes public nomination for the 2017 chief executive election and called for a 1,400-strong nominating committee, with 317 members directly elected by all three million voters.
Lee said he informed Chan on July 23 of his decision to quit Hong Kong 2020, which was set up in April last year to study the path to universal suffrage. "I am the host of two current affairs programmes on RTHK and Now TV," he said. "As the tension over political reform escalates, I expect to face more challenges to my impartiality as a programme host if I stay in Hong Kong 2020."
Chan confirmed: "Mr Allen Lee feels that in his capacity as a political commentator, and given the current political climate, it is inappropriate for him to participate in any political organisation."