Exclusive: Support drops for anti-democracy protests in Hong Kong as national security law looms – poll

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – Support for year-long pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong has waned, now gaining the support of a slim majority, as the city prepares for security legislation report written by Beijing, a survey conducted for Reuters showed.

FILE PHOTO: A pro-democracy protester holds a flag supporting Hong Kong independence during a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of a mass rally against the now-withdrawn extradition bill in Hong Kong, China, June 9, 2020. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

Protests intensified last June over a bill that has since been withdrawn, which would have allowed the extradition of the accused to mainland China. Later, they turned into pressure for greater democracy, often involving violent clashes with the police.

Protests have resumed, but with far fewer participants, since China announced plans for the security law, which alarmed foreign governments and democratic activists in Hong Kong.

A survey by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute between June 15 and June 18 showed that the law is against a majority in the financial center. (Graphic: Do you support opposing Beijing’s decision to impose security law in Hong Kong? – here)

But the poll also showed support for declining protests to 51% from 58% in a previous poll for Reuters in March, while opposition to them rose to 34% from 28%.

“It can be psychological, because the Hong Kong people see that Beijing is getting tougher,” said Ming Sing, associate professor of social science at the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong.

“If you continue to insist (on demands), it’s not practical. ”

Events on the ground also indicate a loss of momentum, with most of the protests in recent weeks numbering only hundreds and ending quickly. The police, citing restrictions on coronaviruses, did not authorize recent rallies and arrested many of those who showed up anyway.

Last week, pro-democracy unions and a group of students failed to get enough support to organize strikes against the security bill.

(Graphic: to what extent do you support or challenge the protest movement? – here)

The shift in support for protests has occurred mainly at the extremes, with those who strongly support them going from 40% to 34% and those who strongly opposing them going from 21% to 28%. The number of those who “somewhat” support or oppose the protests has remained stable.

Special requests from the movement also saw a drop in support. The request for an independent commission of inquiry to examine how the police handled the protests saw a drop of 10 percentage points in March to 66%.

Universal suffrage, another key demand, was supported by 61%, compared to 68%. The resignation of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam was supported by 57% compared to 63% three months ago.

(Graphic: Should the Hong Kong government accede to the following demands from protesters? – here)

Opposition to requests went from 15% to 21%.

Samson Yuen, assistant professor in the department of political science at Lingnan University, said support for protesters’ demands was “still high” but could have declined because the security law overtook the protests as a subject principal of public discourse.

“Who would still be talking about (protest) requests when the national security law arrives? Said Yuen.

Lam’s office and the Hong Kong and Macao Chinese Affairs Office, which are part of the State Council or the Cabinet, did not respond to requests for comment.

For the survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, 1,002 respondents were randomly interviewed by telephone. The results have been weighted according to the latest population figures.

OBJECTION TO SECURITY LAW

The poll was conducted when Beijing’s intention to introduce legislation against terrorism, subversion, separatism and foreign interference was known, but little details were available.

Although the draft of the new law has not yet been finalized, the main features of the legislation have since been published, revealing that the central authorities of the Communist Party will have global powers over its application, including rights of interpretation. final.

The poll showed that 49% of those surveyed were strongly opposed to the Beijing decision, with 7% “somewhat” opposing it. Support for the legislation amounted to 34%, the rest being indifferent or undecided.

“I oppose the law because the (Beijing) government is interfering in the affairs of Hong Kong,” said engineer Charles Lo, 29, who participated in the investigation. “It will also take away our freedom of expression and hinder the democracy movement.”

The law raised fears that Beijing would further erode the extended autonomy promised to the territory when Britain returned it to China on a “one country, two systems” basis in 1997.

Authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing have repeatedly stated that the legislation will target only a small number of “troublemakers” while preserving rights and freedoms. They say it will bring stability to a city shaken by protests.

“Before June of last year, I did not think that Hong Kong needed national security laws because we were so peaceful and secure, but now I think it is necessary,” said another respondent to poll, Hui, a retiree of fifty years

The poll also found that support for the idea of ​​Hong Kong’s independence, which is anathema to Beijing and should be a focal point in impending legislation, remained relatively unchanged at 21%. Opposition to the idea rose from 60% to 60%.

(Graphic: To what extent do you support or oppose Hong Kong’s independence? – here)

Compared to the previous survey, fewer respondents mainly blamed local government – 39% versus 43% – or the police – 7% versus 10% – for the current situation in Hong Kong, while more blamed the pro-democracy camp – 18% against 14% – and the central government of Beijing – also 18% against 14%.

(Graphic: Who deserves the most responsibility for the current situation in Hong Kong? – here)

Another finding was an increase in support for local pro-Beijing politicians before the September 6 legislative council elections, known as Legco.

Pro-Beijing candidates were supported by 29% of respondents, compared to 22%. Support for pro-democracy politicians remained strong at 53%, but fell by 5 points.

FILE PHOTO: Pro-democracy protesters march holding their phones with flashlights during a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of a mass rally against the now withdrawn extradition bill in Hong Kong, China on June 9, 2020. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

(Graphic: Assuming you have a vote, who would you vote for in the Legislative Council elections later this year? – here)

A split in the lower-level district elections in November allowed the pro-democracy camp to win more than 80% of the seats.

Report by Carol Mang, Yanni Chow, Clare Jim and Marius Zaharia; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Kim Coghill

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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