HONG KONG - Less than half of Hong Kong supports the government's electoral reform proposal which would see a pro-Beijing nominating committee select candidates for the city's next leader in 2017, even after major pro-democracy protests demanding open nominations crippled parts of the city last summer.
Only 47 per cent of the 1,167 people surveyed were in favour of the proposal, which outlines a two-step process for the city's 1,200-strong nominating committee to select two or three candidates for chief executive ahead of a public vote.
It is the first public opinion survey since Hong Kong officials published their electoral blueprint last week, and comes ahead of a vote on the controversial proposal by lawmakers in early summer.
The Hong Kong government has forged ahead with a plan first outlined by China's parliament last summer. Pan-democratic lawmakers hold a veto majority in the city's legislative council and have vowed to vote it down, saying the proposal is not representative and that people want "real universal suffrage." Government officials have said a veto will have dire consequences for the city's political development.
Thirty-eight per cent of those surveyed said they were against the proposal and 16 per cent were undecided, according to the survey which was sponsored by NOW TV and conducted by three Hong Kong universities.
The proposal was least popular among better-educated young people. Fifty-five per cent of those surveyed with a college education or above were against the proposal, while 63 per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 were against it.
Students led tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters into the streets last summer, shutting down major roads in Hong Kong for two and a half months. The protesters demanded open nominations in addition to a vote.
Although Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China and enjoys wide-ranging freedoms and autonomy under a so-called "one country two systems" arrangement, many fear Beijing is tightening its control over the former British colony.
Over the last 18 months the Hong Kong government has ramped up a multi-million dollar public relations campaign ranging from new staff positions and public meetings to posters and leaflets. It has also hired outside professionals to help with short videos and design projects, government officials said.