Hong Kong Basic Law

Hong Kong residents more upbeat about ‘one country, two systems’ policy but concerns grow over freedom of speech, survey finds

Middle-of-the-road think tank Path of Democracy’s poll asked people to evaluate model in nine areas including judicial independence

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 7:31am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 8:48am

Hong Kong residents’ perceptions about the “one country, two systems” policy under which China governs the city have improved in the past six months although there are increasing concerns about freedom of speech, according to the latest findings of a survey.

The poll, commissioned by the middle-of-the-road think tank Path of Democracy, asked 1,004 residents between May and June to evaluate the policy against nine areas, including judicial independence and an independent legislature.

A governor of the think tank, Dr Sung Yun-wing, said violence in mainland China against Hong Kong journalists might have affected the score for freedom of speech.

“It is possibly related to the incidents in which Hong Kong reporters were roughed up while reporting on the mainland in May, shortly before our survey started,” said Sung, who is also an associate director at the economic research centre of Chinese University’s Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies.

A Hong Kong reporter was beaten up by two mainlanders while covering Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s visit to Sichuan province. In another incident in Beijing, a Hong Kong cameraman preparing to cover a court hearing involving a human rights lawyer was arrested and beaten by police.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, the think tank’s co-founder and a member of Lam’s cabinet, added: “Strictly speaking, it is not Hong Kong’s freedom of speech problem. It is the mainland’s. But unfortunately people linked it with Hong Kong.”

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The survey was part of the think tank’s project to track how one country, two systems was being implemented in Hong Kong. It launched a one country, two systems index a year ago and sought to update it every six months.

The latest index was 6.53 out of 10, a slight improvement from 6.51.

On a scale of zero to 10, five areas scored lower than 5 – a figure considered a pass – although the marks were all better than last time. Government autonomy scored 4.84, up from 4.73; pace of democratisation rose to 4.5, from 4.43.

Respondents were least confident in resolving conflicts between Hong Kong and the mainland through dialogue, which got a score of 4.27. Last time, the score was 4.17.

Four areas recorded pass marks, including independent judiciary, up from 5.43 to 5.59. The score for independent legislature rose from 5.28 to 5.35. The highest score of 6.25 was given to “the original ways of life have remained unchanged”, up from 6.21.

But freedom of speech saw its score fall from 6.03 to 5.79.

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Sung said the proportion of respondents who saw themselves as moderates had risen to 61.9 per cent from 58.4 per cent a year ago. “Such a trend indicates de-radicalisation and the rise of moderation in the first year of Carrie Lam’s governance,” he added.

On Beijing’s pet policy of lining Hong Kong and Macau up with nine major cities in Guangdong province to form a “Greater Bay Area” to rival Silicon Valley, the survey found that 63.1 per cent of respondents would not consider living or moving there for study, work, business or retirement. Only 12.2 per cent answered “yes”.

But respondents were in general positive about an open day held in April by Beijing’s liaison office in the city, giving it a score of 5.32.