Fewer people in Hong Kong think pro-democracy student protesters in Beijing “did the right thing” in the lead-up to the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre than in previous years, results of a new survey released on Friday show.

The poll also showed fewer respondents thought the Chinese Government “did the wrong thing” in response to the 1989 pro-democracy protests.

Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Square Massacre vigil, 2019. Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

The Tiananmen Massacre occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party has maintained that only 23 people died, tightly censoring any reference to the massacre in mainland China.

The Hong Kong Public Opinion Poll, conducted in late May in the lead-up to the 32nd anniversary of the massacre on Friday, found 42 per cent of respondents thought students in Beijing were in the right, an 11 per cent drop from last year.

Meanwhile, respondents who thought Beijing did the wrong thing in deploying its army fell 12 percentage points, from 66 per cent to 54 per cent.

Timelines of the anti-extradition bill movement in Hong Kong and 1989 movement in Beijing. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“From a broad perspective, Hong Kong people’s mainstream opinion still holds that the
Chinese Government was wrong in 1989, people still support the Beijing students and a reversion of the official stand on June Fourth, but all these figures have registered significant drops from last year,” Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute said of the findings.

The new findings also suggest Hongkongers are less concerned with China’s democratic development, with 34 per cent of those surveyed more willing to prioritise China’s economic growth instead.

The same trend repeated in other survey question results, with people who believed Hongkongers should campaign for China’s democratic development over its economic growth dropping 12 points to 32 per cent.

Those who believed the Chinese regime itself should place more emphasis on democratic improvements also dropped ten points to 39 per cent.

Disband Hong Kong Alliance

The survey also found a record high number of Hongkongers believe the a pro-democracy group behind the annual candlelight vigil remembering victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre should disband.

The Alliance outside the District Court on May 5, 2021 after four activists, including Joshua Wong, were sentenced to jail for taking part in the banned Tiananmen Massacre vigil last year. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Twenty-eight per cent of people surveyed believed the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China should disband, the highest number since records began in 1993. Meanwhile, only 38 per cent of respondents said the group shouldn’t disband, the lowest number since 1998.

The Alliance’s vice-chair was arrested on the suspicion of publicising an unauthorised assembly on Friday morning, after authorities banned the vigil for the second year in a row, again citing Covid-19 pandemic concerns.

1,004 Hong Kong residents were randomly surveyed via telephone for the poll.

The findings come amid growing concern that authorities are moving to erase all memory of the massacre in Hong Kong, as democrats accuse the government of using a Beijing-imposed national security law to quash all political dissent.

Up to 7,000 police officers will reportedly be deployed across the city on Friday to prevent any unauthorised gatherings.

Rhoda Kwan

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.