Poll: Hong Kongers support protesters

Minority wants independence from China

ANTI-GOVERNMENT protestors tear down Christmas and New Year's decoration during a demonstration of New Year's Eve in Hong Kong  (photo credit: TYRONE SIU/ REUTERS)
ANTI-GOVERNMENT protestors tear down Christmas and New Year's decoration during a demonstration of New Year's Eve in Hong Kong
(photo credit: TYRONE SIU/ REUTERS)
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s protest movement is supported by 59% of city residents polled in a survey conducted for Reuters by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, with more than a third of respondents saying they had attended an anti-government demonstration.
Supporters of the protests outnumbered opponents by a ratio of nearly two to one, with 30% saying they were opposed. Of those polled, 57% said they favored the resignation of Carrie Lam, the city’s leader. Lam was a particular target of the anti–government demonstrations that gripped Hong Kong for most of 2019 after she attempted to push through a deeply–unpopular extradition bill.
Nevertheless, only 17% expressed support for seeking independence from China and 20% were opposed to “the current path of one country, two systems” – the arrangement under which Hong Kong is governed by Beijing.
Many protesters say Beijing has used its authority under the system to gradually undermine certain freedoms – such as an independent judiciary and freedom of speech – that are supposed to be guaranteed at least until 2047 under the arrangement.
The results of the survey, involving 1,021 people and conducted from December 17-20, also showed a large plurality of respondents mainly blamed the Hong Kong government for the crisis, the worst civil unrest to hit the city in decades, rather than the central government in Beijing.
“The figures are consistent with Carrie Lam’s low popularity rate, which shows her ability to lead the government is very low,” said Ma Ngok, a professor of government and public administration at Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Resistance and protests will continue next year.”
A Hong Kong government spokesman said in a response to the poll results that Lam and her team would “continue to engage the people through dialogue.”
China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, or cabinet, did not respond to a request for comment.
The protests erupted following an attempt by the Hong Kong government to introduce a bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial in courts that are controlled by the Communist Party.
The bill was later withdrawn but the protests have escalated into a broader call for greater democratic representation in the city and an inquiry into alleged police brutality in dealing with the protests.
The results of the poll reinforce claims by protesters that their key demands are broadly backed by the general public, according to Samson Yuen, a political science professor at Lingnan University. They also counter Beijing’s characterisation of the protests as a movement aimed at undermining its sovereignty over the city.
The poll conducted for Reuters also shows little public support for the denunciations of China by hard-line protesters, some of whom have called for independence for Hong Kong or scrapping the “one country, two systems” model.
“People go on the street due to their dissatisfaction with police and the political system, not asking for independence,” Yuen said.
The survey was the first in a series commissioned by Reuters to gauge public sentiment in Hong Kong amid its worst political crisis in decades. The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute is an independent polling firm.
Among the key findings:
– 57% of respondents said they wanted Lam to resign.
– 37% of respondents said they had taken part in protests in 2019, versus 63% who had not.
– 47% said the Hong Kong government deserved most of the blame for the unrest in the city, 14% blamed the pro–democracy camp the most, and 12% mainly blamed the central government in Beijing.
– 41% of respondents said they “strongly oppose” Hong Kong independence, and 26% said they “somewhat oppose” it. Only 8% said they “strongly support” independence, and 9% “somewhat support” it.
– 74% said they wanted an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality in handling the protests. Only 9% said the police deserved most of the blame for the unrest.
The Hong Kong government has rejected calls by protesters and opposition politicians to set up an independent inquiry into police actions, saying that its oversight of the force is adequate.