To thoroughly understand the controversy surrounding the introduction of the Extradition Bill, its subsequent events, and changes in the public sentiment, Project Citizens Foundation took the initiative to produce an objective, comprehensive and Hong Kong-based public sentiment report of the movement, jointly with Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute since July 2019. The first stage and second stage reports were released on 10th July and 2nd August, 2019 respectively. The final report was released on 13th December 2019, which ran into 66 pages with a concluding chapter and a post‑script covering events after the original cut-off date of late October, including the District Council Elections on 24th November.
First Stage: Public Opinion Survey
Second Stage: Youth Opinion Follow-up Study
Third Stage: People’s Public Sentiment Report
Statement by Mrs Anson Chan at the Press Conference on Friday, 13th December, 2019 to announce The Anti-Extradition Bill – People’s Public Sentiment Report.
Earlier this year, Projects Citizens Foundation commissioned Dr. Robert Chung’s Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute to conduct a comprehensive public sentiment report on the Anti-Extradition Bill movement. We are grateful for public support in raising the necessary funds to undertake this survey. The survey was conducted in three stages. The first stage and second stage reports were released on 10th July and 2nd August, 2019 respectively. The final report which we are presenting today runs into 66 pages with a concluding chapter and a post‑script covering events after the original cut-off date of late October, including the District Council Elections on 24th November. I shall now invite Dr. Chung to elaborate on his findings.
Project Citizens Foundation would also like to offer our own observations and conclusions on the Anti‑Extradition Bill protest movement and the events of the past six months. In a nutshell, we feel “The People Have Spoken”.
- Not for the first time, the Hong Kong SAR Government has made a mess of those things closest and dearest to its citizens’ hearts. Because its leaders want to please their masters in Beijing instead of listening to the Hong Kong people – their own.
- The Extradition Amendment Bill was uncalled for and hugely unpopular. The march of one million on 9th June and the march of two million on 16th June should have made this crystal clear. The people of Hong Kong could not elect their own Chief Executive, nor vote this person out of office. And so marches and demonstrations are their only recourse and the most reliable gauge of public sentiments. But did the SAR Government listen? No, it did not. Instead of withdrawing the bill in its entirety after the two marches attended by unprecedented numbers, when the people’s voices were ringing out loud and clear, it merely offered to suspend the bill for the time being.
- What happened afterwards, which has lasted to this day, started with this arrogant, open disregard for unequivocal, clearly-stated public opinion. This whole sorry saga which is bringing Hong Kong business to its knees, dragging its police force through the mud, and causing its people serious physical and psychological injuries, including a number of young people’s deaths, was really self-inflicted and, in different and wiser hands, could have been easily avoided.
- The protest movement brought together people from all walks of life, age groups, educational backgrounds, ethnic origin and professional occupations in a united and sustained campaign to preserve Hong Kong’s way of life and core values which are enshrined in the “one country, two systems” concept but which have been steadily and insidiously eroded in recent years. The fight is essentially a clash between the China model that emphasizes blind loyalty, collectivism and obedience and the international model that centres on the rule of law, on individuality, diversity, freedom and the right to think for oneself.
- The failure of the HKSAR Chief Executive and her team to respect and respond to public sentiments and demands, and to be accountable for their action and inaction has convinced the public that the only way to make their voices heard is to take to the streets and for some of them, to resort to violence, though most marches have been largely peaceful.
- In normal circumstances, no sensible person would condone violence but unfortunately the failure of the Chief Executive to rein in the police and their increasing brutality, excessive use of force and arbitrary arrests, has led some of the protestors to conclude that only violence will force the Government to act. Public sentiment may have ebbed and flowed throughout the past six months but rather remarkably, sympathy and support for the protestors have held firm. This is reflected clearly in the outcome of the landslide victory for the pan democratic candidates standing in the District Council Elections on 24th November. The silent majority has spoken loud and clear.
- The District Council Elections attracted a record turnout of over 70% of the registered voters, many queuing hours at the polling stations to cast their votes. The pan democratic candidates won an unprecedented 388 seats out of a total of 452 seats (or some 85%) and now control 17 out of the 18 district councils. The newly elected councillors, some of whom are new comers, are generally younger and better educated. They are enthusiastic and committed. If they go about their work in a spirit of co-operation, openness and consultation with the public on district needs, they can make a difference and provide a springboard for developing a new cadre of political leaders.
- The protest movement now into its seventh month has taken a heavy toll on the economy, the well-being of our community, particularly on our younger generation, trust in the SAR Government and Beijing and on our international reputation. But the sad reality is that the SAR Government and Beijing appear to have learned nothing from the prolonged turmoil.
- Trust between the SAR Government, in particular the police and the community it is supposed to serve, has completely broken down. The Chief Executive has lost all moral authority and credibility to govern because she has manifestly failed to defend “two systems” and Hong Kong’s life style. Hence the demand for her to step down. There is strong community anger against the Police Force and all that it stands for. Restoration of trust will be a long and arduous task and can only happen if the Government follows sensible policies.
- The public wants change to a system that is perceived to be increasingly authoritarian and unfair. They want the right to elect their own leaders, be it the Chief Executive or all members of the Legislative Council, because only genuine universal suffrage will hold these leaders accountable to the people. Amongst our younger generation, this appears to be their first priority.
- There is no end in sight. The only way forward is for the Chief Executive to make genuine moves in favour of dialogue and to be seen to consider the five public demands particularly re-opening discussion on finding a pathway towards achieving genuine one man one vote. Failing this, the protests are likely to continue with the risk of increasing violence and prolonged unrest.
- An independent commission of inquiry, headed by a reputable judge is long overdue. We need such an inquiry to establish the root causes of the whole protest movement, to investigate the actions of the Government, the protestors and the police and to recommend measures that will enable society to heal including the need for an amnesty. The Government has not explained why it has rejected this overwhelming public demand in favour of a so-called independent review. The terms of reference for this review have not been publicly aired nor do we know who is to head this review and who will be its members. The Government needs to come clean on its intentions and forge a consensus if such a review is to be credible. It is puzzling why the Chief Executive insists on waiting for the interim report of the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) when its own panel of international experts has pointed out that the IPCC lacks the necessary powers and investigative capabilities to produce a comprehensive and credible report. Because of this, the panel has recently decided to step down.
Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute: https://www.pori.hk/anti-extradition-bill-report-3