Hongkongers' sense of Chinese identity has fallen to a 14-year low, a poll revealed yesterday.
The survey, carried out under the University of Hong Kong's Popular Opinion Programme, also found that nearly four in 10 respondents described themselves distinctly as "Hongkongers", a rise of 11 percentage points from last December, and showed a cooling of sentiment towards the mainland in recent months.
The twice-yearly poll asked 1,055 Hongkongers to rate how strongly they associated themselves with a range of identities - including Hongkongers, Chinese, Asians and "global citizens" - on a scale of 1 to 10.
Respondents' average connection with the Hongkonger identity was the highest, at 8.13 points, despite being 0.3 points lower than six months ago. The Chinese identity scored an average of 6.80 points - 0.67 points lower than in December and just a whisker above June 1999's record low.
The 1999 survey was completed amid an intense debate over the city's judicial independence, triggered by the local government's decision to seek Beijing's interpretation of the Basic Law over right of abode matters.
In the latest survey, respondents were also asked to choose which of four identities they most preferred - Hongkonger, Chinese, Chinese Hongkonger or Hong Kong Chinese.
Hongkonger was the preferred designation for 38 per cent of respondents, almost double the score of the Chinese designation, which 23 per cent of respondents opted for - a 2 percentage-point rise since the last poll but within the margin of error. Chinese Hongkonger or Hong Kong Chinese was chosen by 36 per cent, 13 percentage points down from December.
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The findings have underlined tensions between Hong Kong and the mainland in recent months, including nativists' criticisms that prompted organisers of the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown to drop the slogan "Love the country, love the people" last month.
After the last poll, Hao Tiechuan, director general of publicity, cultural and sports affairs at the central government's liaison office, said the questions were "illogical" and "unscientific".
But Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, head of the university's public opinion programme, said: "His comments were merely from a political point of view."