76% of Hong Kong's youth identify as 'Hongkongers', while only 2% think of themselves as 'Chinese'

More young people are identifying as "Hongkongers" than as "Chinese".
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

Only two per cent of Hong Kong's youth identify as "Chinese", a drop from 5.4 per cent some six months ago, according to latest findings of a half-yearly tracking poll released on Tuesday (June 21).

This was despite overall survey results showing an increase in recent years of residents' sense of being "Chinese", with the latest rating at 6.52 on a scale of zero to ten, up from 6.13 last time, also the highest since the poll in December 2018 when the rating was 6.6.

Analysts attributed it partly to the recent wave of emigration and also urged incoming leader John Lee Ka-chiu to step up youth work to win back their hearts, in the wake of Beijing's perceived hardline approach on Hong Kong following the 2019 social unrest.

The findings were derived from phone interviews of 1,000 city residents from May 31 to June 5, conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, a private polling centre founded by former University of Hong Kong pollster Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu.

In the latest survey, overall, 39 per cent of the respondents identified as "Hongkonger", and 18 per cent thought of themselves as "Chinese". Both figures were the same as those in the last poll some six months ago.

Breaking down the data by age groups, it was found that only two per cent of those aged 18 to 29 identified themselves as "Chinese", compared to 23 per cent for those aged 50 or older, and 17 per cent for those aged 30 to 49.

In contrast, 76 per cent of those aged 18 to 29 identified as "Hongkongers". Of the 30-49 age group, 40 per cent thought of themselves as "Hongkongers", while the percentage was 29 for those aged 50 or older.

Current affairs commentator Derek Yuen Mi-chang said he hoped the findings would not affect Beijing and the Hong Kong government's attitude towards local young people and urged the new leadership to step up youth work.

"After the 2019 social incident, many young people had strong views against Beijing and the Hong Kong government. I hope the government is not going to give up on them," Yuen said.

On the trend that more people had a stronger sense of being "Chinese", Yuen attributed it partly to the recent wave of emigration. "Those who do not like the Communist Party may have already left. So, many of those staying behind probably would feel stronger as being Chinese," he said.

Paul Wong Chi-wai, a lecturer at the University of Wollongong (UOW) College Hong Kong's faculty of social sciences, echoed Yuen's views and said: "People tend to recognise an identity that will make them feel proud."

"It is time to win people's hearts after the government took the hardline approach to suppress the opposition. Instead of focusing on political loyalty, the government should spare more time to tackle people's livelihood problems."

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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.