November 25, 2014 | By Dina Smeltz

Hong Kong Residents Consider Occupy Protests Ineffective; Want them to End

By Dina Smeltz and Toni Friedman
People watch from the top of a Hong Kong subway station as bailiffs try to clear protesters. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Hong Kong police are now forcefully moving protesters out of major protest camps after a court order to clear certain streets in Mong Kok district, where confrontations between the police and demonstrators have been violent. The protests broke out this fall throughout Hong Kong in response to the National People's Congress Standing Committee’s plan for the 2017 Chief Executive Elections, in which only the candidates with the approval of the Central Government would be allowed to run. The number of protesters has decreased dramatically since September, and recent polls among Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong—conducted by the Chinese Hong Kong University (CUHK) and the University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP)—show that the public in Hong Kong views the “occupy” protests as an ineffective way to achieve changes and wants the demonstrations to end.

A November 5-11 CUHK poll conducted throughout Hong Kong  found a slight majority  of the  public saying that the government needs to make more concrete concessions to “resolve the existing situation” (52% vs. 38% who say it does not need to).  A plurality (47%) also thinks  that the Legislative Council should reject any draft for the 2017 elections if it forbids people having different political views from the Central Government to stand for the election (36% said it should be approved, and 17% had no view).

But many people in Hong Kong are skeptical that the protests will be effective in bringing about changes.  A September HKUPOP poll conducted closer to the start of the protests in September found that 57 percent of the Hong Kong public then said that there was “no chance” that the Occupy Central movement would be able to “change the central government’s stance on Hong Kong’s political reform.” An additional 19 percent said it would be “quite unlikely” and 10 percent said it would be “very unlikely.” Only 5 percent said it was likely at all.

Reflecting this skepticism as well as the frustrations regarding traffic and business disruptions near the protest sites, a large majority of the public now wants the protests to stop. A November 19  HKUPOP poll indicates that two in three Hong Kong residents would like the Hong Kong government to clear the occupied areas now (35% say to clear all them, 6% say to clear some of them, and 24% say to clear occupied areas but open up other areas for occupiers; 27% say to leave them alone). Underscoring this point, solid majorities also describe the occupy protests as bringing “more harm than good” in both the short term (73%) and long term (65%).  And finally, eight in ten Hong Kong residents say that the Occupy movement should not continue (79%), while only 14 percent say it should continue. This is a 9 percent increase in desire to end the protests from an earlier HKUPOP poll that was conducted from October 31 to November 10. Of the 79 percent that says that the protests should stop half (53%) say that protesters “should use other ways to fight for universal suffrage.”   

But there has been little talk in the Hong Kong press of alternatives to the Occupy Central movement. Running parallel to the decline in tolerance for the protests, the November CUHK poll indicates a general decline in public morale as well.  Only a third of the public says they “tend to feel optimistic” about the future development of Hong Kong (34%), down from 46 percent in September when the protests began.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

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