Hong Kong was more democratic under the British than it is today, according to more than half of local college students polled in a survey. The findings of the recent survey surprised the pollsters, who interviewed 2,540 university students in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and mainland China. The pollsters - comprising two student groups, the New Youth Forum and the Cross-Strait Exchange Association - were investigating students' knowledge of colonial history. Hongkongers had the most favourable view of their former colonial rulers. More than 51 per cent of local students said Hong Kong was more democratic under a colonial government, compared with 40 per cent in Macau and 25 per cent on the mainland and Taiwan. Around 60 per cent of local students thought the British government 'made decisions and policies for the benefit of Hong Kong's long-term growth and prosperity' - a finding that the New Youth Forum blamed on ignorance. 'This generation of students basically did not grow up under the British, so they are responding with feelings and perceptions, not knowledge,' said City University student Lee Kwok-fai, who helped conduct the survey. 'Their lack of knowledge and a one-perspective take on history have made them form skewed views of what the past was like.' The survey also found that local students were the worst-informed about historical facts. When asked which part of Hong Kong was ceded to Britain in the Treaty of Nanjing (signed exactly 170 years ago), only 47 per cent of local students gave the correct answer - Hong Kong Island. On the mainland, 70 per cent of students answered correctly. '[The Treaty of Nanjing] is a pivotal point in Hong Kong's history,' said Andrew Ng Wai-ming, a second-year economics and finance student who helped conduct the survey. 'Yet our young people do not even know the basic facts.' Scholars from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and mainland China could come together to write a non-biased and multi-perspective history curriculum for students, he said. 'Teaching about the effects and facts of colonialism is important in understanding our city, and in helping young people develop critical thinking. This should be done within history class,' said Ng. But he did not think that the planned national education course was necessary. 'We don't need a new subject - we just need subjects to be formatted and done the right way.'