Hong Kong people not happy with China

For the first time in a decade, a majority of Hong Kong’s residents — most notably young people — are dissatisfied with the way the central government in Beijing is overseeing its relations with the former British colony, a newly released poll showed.

Some 52 per cent of people with permanent residency in Hong Kong surveyed by the Hong Kong Transition Project said they were dissatisfied with the way the central government managed its relationship with the territory, the highest level since 2004, according to the poll released on Tuesday.

Among people aged 21 to 29, the level of dissatisfaction rises to 82 per cent. Almost half of the respondents — 48 per cent — said they were also dissatisfied with the way the central government was managing the entire country, the highest level since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, the survey found.

Hong Kong flies the Chinese flag, but under the terms of its return to Beijing’s rule in 1997, it retains a great deal of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” formula until 2047.

People living in Hong Kong enjoy civil liberties, including freedom of speech, assembly and religion, as well as a relatively free press — rights not available on the Chinese mainland.

The high levels of dissatisfaction with Beijing are paired with even higher levels of opposition to the way Hong Kong’s own government, led by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, is handling ties with the mainland.

Among the 1,007 Hong Kong permanent residents surveyed from Dec 18 to Jan 1, 56 per cent said they were dissatisfied with the way the local government was handling ties with the central government in Beijing, the highest level of discontent since June 2004, a year after widespread protests over Beijing’s push to implement a law on sedition.

One reason for the rising opposition is concern that Leung and his government will not push for the direct election of the next chief executive.

The central government has pledged to allow Hong Kong permanent residents the right to pick their own leader in the next election in 2017.

The argument is over how such candidates are nominated, with the mainland government insisting that candidates be patriotic.

Leung himself was chosen as chief executive by a group of fewer than 1,200 people, including many wealthy business executives and other members of Hong Kong’s elite society.

Fewer than one in 10 people surveyed had even “some” belief Leung would implement a fair nominating process that did not exclude qualified candidates who may hold views the Beijing government does not approve of.

Over all, 72 per cent of respondents said Leung would not implement a fair system. Any plan for direct elections of the chief executive must be approved by the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature.

Democracy activists in Hong Kong plan to hold sit-in protests in the city’s central business district in the event that the Beijing government insists on a restrictive nomination system that excludes qualified candidates and does not meet international criteria for free and fair elections.

Last week, Li Yuanchao, China’s vice president, warned that the movement, called Occupy Central With Love and Peace, was illegal and would threaten Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.

Among respondents, 57 per cent said they were very worried or somewhat worried that the Occupy Central movement would harm the local economy.

Li repeated Beijing’s insistence that any candidate “must conform to the standard of loving the country and loving Hong Kong,” a phrase seen by critics of Chinese policy as meaning they must enforce Beijing’s will.

Pluralistic place

Among those surveyed, 38 per cent said they supported the Occupy Central movement while 54 per cent were opposed.

Young people especially are increasingly looking away from mainland China in identifying themselves, the survey found. Over all, 62 per cent of respondents wanted to promote and protect Hong Kong’s identity as a pluralistic and international place, with only 29 per cent seeking to emphasise the region’s historical and cultural identification with China.

The exhaustive survey, presented in a 215-page document, is the latest in a regular survey of Hong Kong residents that maps their opinions about political and economic issues stretching back more than two decades.

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