Half of Hongkongers have trouble naming even one member of the current term “patriots-only” Legislative Council, 15 months into their tenure, a poll has found.

legco jiang zemin memorial
File photo of Hong Kong lawmakers. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Hong Kong’s first “patriots-only” LegCo election took place in December following a Beijing-mandated overhaul of the electoral system that minimised the role of democrats. It saw the lowest turnout in the city’s history.

Over a year later, in early April, the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) conducted a random telephone survey, asking respondents to name lawmakers and invite them to rate the six most recognised ones.

Among the 1,010 Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong residents surveyed, half told researchers that they could not name any current lawmakers, while 12 per cent gave the wrong answer. Only 38 per cent managed to name at least one current Legislative Councillor correctly.

Starry Lee, whose name was mentioned by a quarter of the survey respondents, was the most recognised lawmaker who is currently in office, followed by Regina Ip, Michael Tien, Priscilla Leung, Junius Ho and Dominic Lee, PORI found.

Starry Lee.
Starry Lee. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Among the six most recognised legislative councillors, the popularity ratings of Ip, Tien, Leung and Ho hit lows not seen since October 2021. Starry Lee’s popularity rating also fell to a low not seen since April 2022, while Dominic Lee’s popularity had not been previously recorded.

Kenneth Chan, former pro-democracy lawmaker and an associate professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University, spoke during a PORI press conference to reveal the results on Thursday. He expressed his disappointment in the current legislators after looking into the poll result.

Chan said it was worrying that most respondents could not even name one out of the 90 lawmakers.

“Only being recognised by 4 per cent of the respondents was enough for Dominic Lee to make it to the top six,” Chan said, adding that it showed people were indifferent to the legislature.

The scholar also noted that most lawmakers who made it into the top ranks had served in previous terms, suggesting that many Hongkongers were uninterested in the new lawmakers and their ideologies.

lawmakers recognition HKPORI
People’s recognition rate of Legislative Councillors (1998-2023). Photo: HKPORI.

Citing the new pratice of removing the names of lawmakers from meeting minutes, Chan said it had made it more difficult for legislators to be held accountable, resulting in lower expectations from the current term of LegCo from both Hongkongers and the lawmakers themselves.

“As a taxpayer, I’m extremely dissatisfied with this result. They are paid tens of thousands dollars a month, but it seems like they don’t really care about the citizens’ views of them or the constitutional function of the legislature,” Chan said.

Robert Chung, the president of PORI, asked Chan at the press conference whether he took previous poll results seriously when he was a member of the LegCo years ago.

Chan described the data as a valuable resource that allowed him to evaluate the relationship between lawmakers and the public, especially in the past when legislators were more motivated to gain publicity.

Derek Yuen, former member of the New People’s Party, told Chung that Regina Ip, chairperson of Yuen’s former party, valued poll results, too. Yuen added that while the “game rules” of the revamped legislature were still ambiguous to most LegCo members, some of them still hoped to gain media exposure.

pori public opinion poll (4)
File Photo. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

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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Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.