About eight in 10 anti-government protesters in Hong Kong support Beijing’s approach to the city, and only a minority support independence from China, according to a study by a centrist party, Third Side.
The study also showed 45 per cent of protesters believed vandalising shops they disliked was acceptable because, “they only caused damage, but did not loot the places or steal money”.
“Our study seems to suggest that the rise of Hong Kong independence is only an overblown topic, exaggerated by the pro-Beijing camp, which, unfortunately, could have affected the central government’s policy on Hong Kong,” said Tik Chi-yuen, the party’s chairman.
In telephone and face-to-face interviews, the party spoke to 120 protesters who had taken part in demonstrations since the unrest began in June, with 24 having been arrested.
While protesters are often labelled anti-China, the study found that 48 per cent “highly support” the “one country, two systems” governing principal, with another 30 per cent said they “fairly supported” the policy.
A small minority opposed the policy, under which Hong Kong is given a high degree of autonomy and political freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.
Of those surveyed, 77 per cent believed independence was impractical, while only 6 per cent supported the idea.
“Our observation is that most of the protesters are discontent with the social inequality that they view has been brought about by the influx of mainlanders, like under the one-way permit system,” said the report.
The one-way permit scheme allows as many as 150 mainlanders to come to settle in Hong Kong every day.
Originally a think tank, Third Side was launched as a political party in 2016, advocating a moderate and middle-of-the-road approach to social and political issues.
Tik said it was too simplistic for the government to attribute the unrest to the fact many young people “cannot afford to own their own flats”.
He called on the city’s leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, to take bold action to break the impasse before it was too late. Lam has been reluctant to set up an independent commission of inquiry to look into the police’s handling of protests.
As an alternative, Tik has said a panel, chaired by an adviser from Lam’s cabinet, the Executive Council, should be set up.
The panel, which would be made up of members of the Independent Police Complaints Council, would be tasked with holding public hearings into the protests, he added.