Public confidence in the state of Hong Kong’s democracy, rule of law and stability have fallen significantly in the past month, according to the latest findings of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Poll released Tuesday.

The survey was conducted in early March, as China’s parliament was deliberating a now-approved electoral overhaul for Hong Kong to ensure that only “patriots” rule the city. Critics say the planned changes will shut democrats out of the system.

vote voting election
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The poll asked respondents to rate, on a scale of 0-10, five key indicators used to gauge public trust in the city’s institutions: degree of freedom, stability, prosperity, democracy and compliance with the rule of law. All registered below five.

The survey found a decline in public confidence in all five indicators compared to early February. Apart from the “freedom” indicator which fell only slightly, all other indicators registered a significant decrease, down by 0.58 to 0.72, said a statement from the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute. The survey’s margin of error was 0.29 points.

The drop in public confidence comes after 47 democrats were charged with “subversion” under the national security law and the head of the city’s public broadcaster, RTHK, was replaced with a former bureaucrat with no former journalistic experience.

The biggest downgrade was seen in people’s view of the city’s degree of democracy, which dropped 0.68 points to 3.59.

The findings are the lowest ratings since January, which saw a record low in public confidence since the city was returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

PORI poll March 2021
Photo: HKPORI.

The survey covered 1,001 Cantonese-speaking adults whose views were collected via random telephone polls.

The drop in public confidence comes nine months after Beijing imposed a national security law designed to quell political dissent in response to months of pro-democracy protests and unrest in 2019. The majority of the city’s political opposition are now detained or in exile.

In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.