More than 60 per cent of University of Hong Kong students would support independence should a referendum be held the next day, even with Beijing’s opposition, a survey by the school’s student magazine found. This figure is up from 37 per cent two years ago and 54 per cent last year.

The magazine Undergrad asked students to log on to the school’s intranet to answer questions. It interviewed 385 students between the end of June and mid-July. The annual survey was published inside a monthly magazine titled “The collapse of an empire, the de-colonisation of Hong Kong,” with several articles discussing the independence of Hong Kong.

The survey also found that should Beijing recognise the referendum, 65 per cent would vote for independence, up from 42 per cent two years ago, and a slight increase from 64 per cent last year.

University of Hong Kong.
University of Hong Kong.

It asked students to rate different options for Hong Kong’s future. Those who support becoming a colony of the UK and those supporting the cancellation of Hong Kong’s special status remained less than ten per cent. However, support for Hong Kong to become an independent state rose from 15 to 41 per cent in two years, and the support for maintaining the One Country, Two Systems principle dropped 25 per cent. It is now at 43 per cent from 68 per cent two years ago.

A new question asked students whether they thought Hong Kong could achieve democracy under the One Country, Two Systems principle – 62 per cent said it was impossible, and 25 per cent said it was possible.

Among other new questions this year, students were asked whether “building a democratic China” should be on the agenda for Hong Kong people – 62 per cent said no while 26 per cent said yes.

Another new question was on methods of achieving independence. Half were against an armed revolution, but 31 per cent said yes.

Edward Leung Tin-kei
Edward Leung Tin-kei. Photo: Cloud.

Asked whether it was necessary to stick to the “peaceful, rational, non-violent” principle, only 41 per cent agreed this year, compared to 76 per cent who said yes in 2014. Those who said it was not necessary rose from 21 per cent to 48 per cent in two years.

The most highly-rated way to protest was a general strike, followed by occupation of main government buildings, occupation of main roads, boycotting class, throwing fire bombs, and attacking Chinese officials in Hong Kong, among ten other options.

In terms of political stance, students who claimed to be of the pan-democratic camp dropped from 61 per cent in 2014 to 25 per cent this year. There were 48 per cent who claimed to be localists this year – the option was added after 2014.

But 71.7 per cent said no politician can represent them. This was followed by 9.9 percent who support Edward Leung Tin-kei of Hong Kong Indigenous. Radical lawmaker Raymond Wong Yuk-man received 3.6 per cent of support, Civic Party’s Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu received 2.6 per cent, and others received lower than one per cent.

Similar trends were seen for political groups, as 44.4 per cent said no group can represent them. Hong Kong Indigenous received 19.2 per cent of support, followed by Civic Party’s 12.5 per cent. All others were below six per cent.

In January last year, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying criticised the student magazine at the start of his annual policy address. Some dubbed Leung the “father of Hong Kong independence” after the attack, as it caused many to become aware of the magazine and the idea of Hong Kong independence for the first time.

A recent poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that 17 per cent of Hong Kong people supported independence, whilst nearly 40 per cent of respondents aged between 15 and 24 supported the idea.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.