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Poll: For Hong Kong Citizens, Sense of Chinese Identity Hits New Low

Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers take part in a flag-raising ceremony during the opening day of Stonecutter Island Navy Base in Hong Kong to mark the 19th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover to China, July 1, 2016.

As Hong Kong marks 19 years since its handover from Britain, a new poll indicates an all-time low in the collective sense of pride as Chinese citizens, and feelings about Beijing's policies toward the city.

The University of Hong Kong's Popular Opinion Program (UHKPOP) found the percentage of respondents identifying as "Chinese" at the lowest level in 14 years. Sixty-seven percent of the 1,006 people polled identified themselves as "Hongkongers," with only 31 percent saying they were "Chinese."

"When asked to make a choice among four given identities, namely, 'Hongkongers,' 'Hongkongers in China,' 'Chinese,' and 'Chinese in Hong Kong,' 42 percent of respondents identified themselves as 'Hongkongers,' 18 percent as 'Chinese,' and 25 percent as 'Hongkongers in China,' while only 13 percent identified themselves as 'Chinese in Hong Kong,'" the UHKPOP news release said.

"In other words, 67 percent of respondents identified themselves as 'Hongkongers' in the broader sense [i.e., either as 'Hongkongers' or 'Hongkongers in China'], whereas 31 percent identified themselves as 'Chinese' in the broader sense [i.e., either as 'Chinese' or 'Chinese in Hong Kong']."

The overall results represented a 7 percent drop from last year and a record low since the survey was first conducted in 1997, when Hong Kong — a former British colony — was returned to Chinese rule.

The survey also found the number of people who are not proud of their Chinese identity has jumped from 56 percent to 65 percent. Among those aged 18 to 29, 86 percent indicate they are not proud of their Chinese identity, whereas 10 percent are. This figure stood in contrast to sentiments of those aged 50 or older, of whom 44 percent expressed a sense of pride.

UHKPOP interviewed 1,006 people June 20-23. The survey also found that 27 percent of respondents have positive opinions of the Hong Kong government, whereas 38 percent are critical of local government.

Hong Kong media pundits have suggested that many Hong Kong residents are angry that Beijing denied their right to elect Hong Kong leaders and that Beijing has failed to respect the one-country-two-systems policy. One example is the kidnapping of Hong Kong booksellers last year, which may help explain why the number of Hong Kong people who identify themselves as Chinese has dropped sharply.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin service.