Chinese people who have moved to Hong Kong tend to support pro-Beijing groups whilst Hong Kong-born citizens tend to support pro-democracy groups, a study has found.

The article was published in an international journal by Taiwan’s National Sun Yat-sen University, a public research university. It was co-authored by scholars from three Hong Kong universities.

immigration hk
Immigration officers. Photo: GovHK.

It found that immigrants may be a significant political force, especially considering the large population of China. Of those surveyed, 56 per cent of those who identified as supporters of the pro-establishment camp were immigrants. On the other hand, two-thirds of self-identified pan-democratic supporters were Hong Kong born, the study found.

Immigrants are also 28 per cent more likely to be unsure about which camp to support, and there is no significant difference between natives and immigrants for those who identify as politically neutral.

The target population of the survey were Hongkongers aged 20 to 75 in permanent living quarters in built-up areas, according to the Asian Barometer’s methodology for the first round of the survey. The non-chinese speaking population was excluded.

The findings were based on an analysis of data from the third round of the Asian Barometer Survey conducted between August and November 2012. In 1,207 household interviews, respondents were asked about their political values, party identification, and attitude towards democracy and political institutions.

‘Exporting’ politics 

“If China is able to ‘export’ its population to its neighboring (democratic) states, as its people are politically more conservative and have more sympathy to the ‘China model’, it can have substantial impact on the electoral politics of other Asian states,” the authors wrote in the conclusion.

immigration hk
Photo: GovHK.

Other statistically significant variables were noted by the authors. They found that immigrants have more trust in the Chinese government and greater national pride than Hong Kong-born citizens, and mainland Chinese immigrants in Hong Kong seem to be motivated by economic concerns rather than political ones when they choose to settle in the city.

The authors say their data analysis suggests that the differences between immigrants and natives will gradually narrow due to a socialisation effect. However, they said the rate of this happening is quite low. For example, the data says it takes roughly 40 years for an immigrant’s trust in Chinese government to decrease to the level of a Hong Kong-born citizen.

Francis Lee, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong writing for Stand News, said the study was solid overall, but he pointed out that a cross-sectional survey technically cannot prove the existence of a socialisation effect. If the data was presented using a column percentages method instead of a row percentage method, he said, it would give a different impression. Then, “immigrants would not appear to be particularly pro-establishment, it just shows that they support pan-democrats far less than natives do,” he wrote.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.