Four in 10 Hong Kong secondary school pupils feel there is no need for the city to further integrate with mainland China and most identify themselves as Hongkongers rather than Chinese, a survey has found.
The majority of nearly 1,400 youngsters polled also gave a fail mark on Hong Kong-mainland relations and were doubtful or pessimistic about the successful implementation of the “one country, two systems” governing system and “high degree of autonomy” promised the city.
Hok Yau Club, the student group that conducted the survey, called for better education of the Basic Law and more understanding of Chinese culture to minimise friction.
President Xi Jinping emphasised the need for both courses of action during his recent visit to celebrate Hong Kong’s 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.
The survey, conducted in December and January, covered 1,388 Form Four to Six students at 16 schools.
Each was asked to grade, from one to 10, relations between Hong Kong and the mainland. The average score was 4.24, while 81.2 per cent gave a mark of five or below.
The students cited “intervention” and “meddling” from Beijing as the main reasons for strained ties.
“The outcome was in line with the general sentiment we gathered from teenagers [during our work],” said Fong Fu-ching, the group’s project coordinator on youth development.
Over 37 per cent of pupils considered themselves Hongkongers – a stark contrast to the 3.8 per cent who said they were Chinese. Forty per cent said they were “both a Hongkonger and a Chinese”.
Nearly 41 per cent did not see a need for Hong Kong to further integrate with the mainland, with only 13 per cent saying otherwise.
The principles of “one country, two systems” and “high degree of autonomy” were guaranteed for 50 years by the central government as part of the handover agreement.
But over half of students either lacked confidence or were unsure when asked if these principles would be successfully implemented in the coming 30 years, before the promise expired.
“A number of students could not come to a conclusion when asked if these principles had been implemented. It goes to show they were either confused or lacked knowledge on the relevant matters,” Fong said.
One reason for this, he suggested, was that details of the handover arrangements were explained in simple terms back in 1997.
“There is definitely a need to strengthen education of the Basic Law – whether the outcome would be positive or negative effect [on Hong Kong-mainland ties],” he said.
Another possible solution was more exchange programmes. Pollsters discovered students who went on exchanges were more open to embracing their Chinese identity, as well as travelling or working on the mainland in the future.
During his speech at the inauguration of the new administration of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on July 1, President Xi Jinping emphasised the importance of stepping up patriotic education of young people, as well as “raising public awareness” of the constitution and the Basic Law.
“These steps are integral to practising one country, two systems, advancing the rule of law nationwide and upholding the rule of law in Hong Kong,” Xi said.