Twenty years after Hong Kong was handed back to China under a Sino-British treaty, less than 40 percent of the city's residents are satisfied with the ruling Chinese Communist Party's implementation of its promises, a new opinion poll has found.
Some 38 percent said they were "satisfied" that Beijing had stuck to the "one country, two systems" model promised ahead of the 1997 handover, according to a survey carried out by pollsters at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).
But 30 percent said they were "dissatisfied," while a further 30 percent said they were "so-so," the telephone poll of more than 1,000 residents found.
Asked about the state of Hong Kong society since the handover, 62.9 percent of respondents thought things had gotten "a lot" or "slightly" worse than before, while 19.2 percent said they were about the same.
Just over 37 percent gave a neutral, "so-so" response when asked about their optimism about the city's future, while 33.4 percent said they were pessimistic. Less than 30 percent said they were optimistic, the university's public opinion unit said in a statement on its website.
CUHK communications professor Clement So said the poll reflects the current somber political mood in Hong Kong.
"This poll reflects how people have been feeling recently, or the political atmosphere as a whole," So said. "We have seen a number of times that wherever there are some negative developments, the figures in these polls tend to drop."
His colleague Francis Lee said the survey had also revealed that levels of trust in both the Hong Kong authorities and the central government in Beijing were below the mid-point on the index.
Hong Kong Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said the results indicate people's concerns over growing Chinese interference in the running of Hong Kong and the sidelining of the city as an economic powerhouse.
"During the past 20 years, all our hopes for 'one country, two systems,' 'Hong Kong people running Hong Kong' and 'a high degree of autonomy' have been dashed under various kinds of interference from the central government," Wu told RFA.
"Secondly, there is also the economic climate ... and our economy has been marginalized in favor of the mainland Chinese economy," he said. "Gradually, we are turning into an economic monoculture, with less and less diverse sources of economic growth."
"So of course we feel like we're on the decline."
However, trade-unionist and pro-establishment lawmaker Alice Mak said support for Hong Kong independence appears to be dropping.
"We need to take note that there were a number of events that touched on questions of separatism or independence, including the oaths row, which pushed people back towards the 'one country' side of the equation," Mak said.
"Without those events, I think that pro-independence sentiment would have continued to develop in Hong Kong," she said, adding that the independence debate would cause 'endless' political conflict.
Talk of independence
A top Chinese official hit out this week at the rise of "localist and separatist ideas" among young people in Hong Kong, saying that some young people are being led astray by such ideas.
Growing talk of independence has coincided with the erosion of Hong Kong's traditional freedoms of speech, publication, and judicial independence in recent years and a stalled timetable for full democracy.
Some 40 percent of young people support the idea, compared with around 70 percent who oppose it across all age groups, according to recent opinion polls.
Wu said that moderate democratic politicians have no truck with the idea, and accused China of manufacturing the problem deliberately.
"Mainstream Hong Kong society and mainstream democrats all think that independence isn't a solution for Hong Kong, when you look at it from a realist perspective," he said.
"It is a straw man created by the Chinese Communist Party for their own ends, as a pretext for stepping up their control over Hong Kong," he said.
Reported by Lam Kwok-lap for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Wang Siwei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.