December 16, 2019 | By Anqi Pan

Post-Election, Hong Kongers Remain Mistrustful of Police

Amidst ongoing unrest, Hong Kong held local elections on November 24th. The vote was widely seen as a referendum on the handling of the protests by the current government. With voter turnout at 71 percent—the highest since 1999—pro-democracy candidates secured 85 percent of the seats and are now set to dominate local councils. Greater challenges now lie ahead for Beijing in its handling of Hong Kong, and the results of the latest round of a rolling survey published by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) shows why.

In response to the protests, HKPORI initiated the “We Hongkongers” public opinion program starting in October 2019 among Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong residents aged 18 or above. The survey methods consist of a representative random probability-based panel recruited through telephone surveys to accurately represented the Hong Kong population and interviewed by telephone.[1] The latest results show falling confidence in the police and growing discontent with the government.

As HKPORI data shows, public trust in the police has plummeted since May. Asked to rate their level of trust in the Hong Kong Police Force as a disciplinary force, the proportion of Hong Kongers who gave the police a “zero” (totally untrustworthy) has increased from seven percent in May to 50 percent in November.

Note: Charts by A. Pan, adapted from “Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute,” https://www.pori.hk/. Accessed December 2nd, 2019.

On average, more Hong Kongers think the police are using excessive force as compared to the protesters, with 65 percent saying the police has been excessive compared to 37 percent of the protesters. This level has held fairly steady since August.

When it comes to who bears responsibility for the escalation of violence in Hong Kong, the public mainly blames the government (83%) and the police (73%), rather than the protesters (39%). While public is even more likely to blame the government now than in August, they are now more likely to blame the police over the protesters. In polling from August, more blamed the protesters (35%) than the police (25%).

As for whether the protesters should remain peaceful or take fierce action, 65 percent of the public agree that the protesters should remain non-violent—an 18-percentage point decrease since June. Nevertheless, most of the public (57%) say that the protesters need to act fiercely if peaceful demonstrations fail to gain government attention.

The latest survey question asks if it could be done again, would the respondents wish the protests happened or had not happened. Three-quarters (75%) wish the protests had never happened.

The data present an interesting view from Hong Kongers themselves amidst the protests that have rocked the city. While they may wish the protests had never started, the decline in faith in the police force is likely to have a long-lasting effect on citizens of all ages, and especially among the youth who have been at the center of the protests.

[1] While other HKPOP surveys also incorporate nonprobability samples, in response to Council inquiries, HKPOP confirmed that the “We Hongkongers” surveys use only a probability sample.

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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| By Karl Friedhoff

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