One Country Two Systems Index (February 2018)

In light of the 20th anniversary of the handover, Path of Democracy conducted a public survey and developed an index that aims to calibrate the current state of “One Country Two Systems” (henceforth 1C2S). The Index serves anyone who is interested in the progress of 1C2S. The index’s data is sourced from two components: firstly, we commissioned a telephone survey on 1C2S carried out by the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong; secondly, comparative analysis of Hong Kong with reference to international indices that track aggregate freedom and democracy levels.

International indices are important as they provide a global point of reference on the preservation of Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy, which is integral to the implementation of 1C2S.

“One Country Two Systems” Overview: Public Survey and Index Construction

Second Report

Summary of results (February 2018)

Index score

Based on the results of the first survey, and comparative analysis of international indices. The performance of 1C2S implementation stands at:


Project Leader: Professor Sung Yun-Wing, Governor of Path of Democracy

In our First Report on the “One Country Two Systems” (henceforth 1C2S) Index (henceforth the Index) released in mid2017 at the 20th anniversary of HK’s reversion, the Index is derived as the average of the following two indices:

  • Index (A), an index of HK Public’s Evaluation of 1C2S: Compiled from a telephone poll conducted in mid2017 on various dimensions of 1C2S, and
  • Index (B), the Freedom and Democracy Index, which is obtained from indices of international think tanks.

In this second Report, we have:

  • Conducted a second telephone poll in December 2017 with a refined questionnaire to compile Index (A), and
  • Updated Index (B) with international data to reflect conditions in 2016 (Due to the long time lag in collecting international data, most of the data of international indices used in the First Report only reflected conditions in 2014).
  • Launched a new 1C2S Mass Media Index (MMI) that use big-data techniques to measure the sentiment of Hong Kong newspapers towards 1C2S from 1988 to the end of 2017 as news sentiment has very significant influences on public opinion.

In the second Report, the scores (on a scale of 0 to 10) of Index (A) and (B) are 4.98 and 8.04 respectively. The updated Index, which is the average of the Indices (A) and (B), is 6.51. This score is not directly comparable with the Index in the first Report due to the refinement of methodology in the second Report. We can nevertheless compute the Index according to comparable methodology, and the scores of the Index in the first and second rounds should respectively be 6.46 and 6.44. The Index has fallen by a negligible 0.02 or 0.3% in the last six months.

Going forward, for the reference of policy makers and the public, we will update and refine the Index every half year through conducting a public survey and updating international indices, and also updating the MMI to gauge the latest sentiments of the media.

  1. Change in scores in the two rounds

Changes in scores in the Index may be affected by the controversial political events that occurred between the two rounds:

  • Disqualification of six LegCo members by the High Court (Baggio Leung Chung-hang, Yau Wai-ching, Leung Kwok-hung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, Lau Siu-lai and Edward Yiu Chung-yim),
  • Prison sentences on the (13 + 3) East North Territory Development protesters,
  • Emphasis on “overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong” in the Work Report of 19th CPC National Congress,
  • Amendment of the Rules of Procedure of the Legislative Council to restrict filibustering,
  • China’s enactment of the national anthem law, and
  • Legco’s passage of the non-binding motion on co-location arrangement.

The above events may have adversely affected the evaluations of 1C2S by the public and also by international think tanks. In the second survey, we have introduced questions on the majority of the above issues to gauge public’s reactions.

(1)  Index (A): Public’s evaluation of 1C2S

Due to the refinement of survey questions in the survey, the Index (A) is not directly comparable with that in the first survey. The refinement only affects one question in the 9 questions used to compute the index, and scores of the other eight questions are directly comparable as they are identical in the two surveys.

In the eight questions that are identical in both rounds of surveys, the scores of 5 questions have fallen: A high degree of autonomy in the executive branch, judiciary independence, legislative independence, freedom of speech, and the successful implementation of “Self Governance, High Autonomy” principles. In view of the above political controversies, the fall of these 5 scores is not surprising.

The scores of two questions have increased, namely “resolving differences between Hong Kong and the Mainland via dialogue and negotiation”, and “the gradual implementation of institutional democratization process”. The scores of these two questions might have been positively affected by the efforts of Mrs. Carrie Lam to heal societal divisions.

Comparing the two rounds, the average score of the eight questions have fallen from 4.88 in the first survey to 4.84 in the second survey, falling by a negligible 0.04 or 0.8%. Given the many controversies that happened between the two rounds of surveys, the very slight deterioration of Index (A) is unexpected. It is likely that this can partly be attributed to the improvement in political climate under the new administration of Carrie Lam.

(2)  Index (B): Freedom and Democracy Index

Index (B) is the average of 3 indices, namely, the Economic Freedom Index and Personal Freedom Index of CATO-Fraser Institutes, and the Democracy Index of the EIU (Economic Intelligence Unit). Hong Kong has always ranked world’s number one in Economic Freedom, and has also ranked highly in Personal Freedom.

The latest Economic Freedom and Personal Freedom indices only reflect conditions up to 2014. We updated both indices to 2016 according to the methodology of CATO-Fraser Institutes. Hong Kong’s Personal Freedom Index rose from 2008 to a peak in 2014, but fell thereafter. The Democracy Index rose from 2008 to a peak in 2015, but declined thereafter. Given the adverse international reactions to recent political controversies in Hong Kong, the recent declines are expected.

  • The Personal Freedom Index climbed from 87 in 2008 to a peak of 9.08 in 2014, but fell to 8.62 in 2016, falling by 5.1% from the 2014 peak. Among the 7 sub-indices of this Index, the scores of 4 sub-indices fell, namely, rule of law (falling by 8.5%), freedom of religion (falling by 7.4%), freedom of association & assembly (falling by 22%), and gender identity & relationship (falling by 7.5%).
  • Despite these declines from 2014 to 2016, Hong Kong’s score in Personal Freedom is still decent, close to those of neighboring developed countries/territories such as Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore. This is testament to Hong Kong’s preservation of high levels of human rights and personal freedoms under 1C2S.

Hong Kong’s Democracy Index rose from 85 in 2008 to a peak of 6.50 in 2015, and rank from the 84th to the 67th. This may be due to the increase in the number of directly elected seats in the Legislature. However, the score fell slightly to 6.42 in 2016, and fell further to 6.31 in 2017. Hong Kong’s scores were lower than those of Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, but was close to that of Singapore. Hong Kong’s mediocre ranking is expected given that the Chief Executive is not elected by universal suffrage.

Our indices are only updated to 2016 due to data limitations, and they probably have deteriorated more given the controversial events in 2017. According to the 2018 ‘Freedom of the World’ of Freedom House released in January 2018 (reflecting the situation in 2017), the score of Hong Kong (the total of all 7 components involving political rights and civil liberties, with a full score of 100) fell continuously by 2 points a year from 67 in 2013 to 61 in 2016, and fell further to a record low of 59 in 2017. Hong Kong ranks 111th in the world, below Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, yet above Singapore.

Our Freedom and Democracy Index is more balanced and comprehensive than that of the Freedom of the World Index, which ignores economic freedom completely. Nevertheless, the substantial fall in scores of Hong Kong in the Freedom of the World index shows that international think tanks are highly concerned about freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.

In 2017, while international opinions on Hong Kong have turned negative, opinions of the Hong Kong public on 1C2S have improved. Our two surveys only cover the second half of 2017 and cannot show trends before mid2017. The HKU Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP) has quarterly surveys on public’s confidence on 1C2S starting from 1993. The average net percentage of the public who have confidence in 1C2S (percentage of the public that is confident less the percentage of the public that is not confident) in the four surveys in 2016 was negative 1.5%. The average net percentage in the four surveys in 2017 was +4.6%. From 2016 to 2017, the net percentage of the public who have confidence in 1C2S has risen by 6.1 percentage points.

Our 1C2S MMI (Mass Media Index) has also improved substantially in 2017. The MMI score has risen from 84 in December 2016 to 97 in December 2017, an increase of 15.6%. The strong improvement in media sentiment appears to be related to the change in Hong Kong’s CE (Chief Executive). Mr. C.Y. Leung, the former CE, announced in December 2016 that he would not seek re-election. Mrs. Carrie Lam, the new CE, was elected in late March 2017 and she started her new term on July 1 2017. In our second survey, we also asked the public about her new administration, and the opinion is positive.

The reason for the divergence between international and local opinions appears to be that the Hong Kong public has placed a lot of weight on the change of CE, while international think tanks have mostly neglected the change. This divergence underlines the importance of including the opinions of both the Hong Kong public and international think tanks in a balanced index of 1C2S.

  1. Topical questions in the telephone survey

(1)  Topical questions asked in both surveys

  • When conflicts arise in 1C2S, a majority believes that the Central Government and Hong Kong are equally responsible, which reflects the need for both parties to reconsider their own obligations and positions.
  • The percentage of the public who plans to emigrate due to lack of confidence in 1C2S has fallen from 9.4% in the first round to 7.7% in the second round. This is a positive development.
  • Both rounds of surveys indicate that the public remains deeply divided over whether the current government ought to initiate public consultation for Article 23 legislation. The absence of consensus should be a cause for concern to policy makers.

(2)   Topical questions in the 2nd survey on controversial political events between the two rounds

  • Hong Kong people are worried about the emphasis of the Central Government on “overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong” in the Work Report of 19th CPC National Congress: 44.3% indicate that they are worried or very worried that the Central Government will tighten its policy towards Hong Kong; only 31.6% indicate that they are unworried or very unworried.
  • Public opinion on amendment of the Rules of Procedure of the Legislative Council to restrict filibustering is positive: 46.3% indicate agree or strongly agree; only 32.4% indicate disagree or strongly disagree.
  • Public opinion on appointment of Carrie Lam as CE is positive: 50.7% indicate that social divisions remain unchanged; 42.3% indicate that they have decreased; only 7.0% indicated that they have increased.
  • Public opinion on the Government proposal of ‘co-location arrangement’ for the Express Rail Link is positive: 51.9% indicate support or strongly support; only 21.6% indicate oppose or strongly oppose.
  • Public opinion on the impact of ‘co-location’ arrangement on 1C2S is neutral: 52.5% indicate no impact, 32.2% indicate negative impact, only 15.3% indicate positive impact.
  • Impact of enactment of national anthem law by the Hong Kong government on 1C2S is negative: 44.4% indicate negative impact; 37.3% indicate no impact; only 18.3% indicate positive impact.

Despite worries about the tightening of the Central Government’s policy towards Hong Kong and the enactment of the national anthem law, Hong Kong people appear to be very pragmatic in the reaction to recent controversies. They appear to place efficiency of operating the Express Rail Link over political concerns on whether the “co-location arrangement” would infringe the Basic Law. They value effective functioning of the LegCo over endless debates. They also have a positive view of Carrie Lam, who set aside political controversies on constitutional reforms and focus on improving people’s livelihood. This pragmatic approach is consistent with the negligible change in the people’s evaluation of 1C2S despite the many political shocks that happened between the two surveys. This pragmatism may also explain the slight rise in public’s confidence that conflicts between mainland China and Hong Kong can be resolved via dialogue and negotiation (question 9 of survey).

III.  Citizen’s Self-Identification as Hong Kongers and as Chinese

(1)  Double identity as ‘Hong Konger’ and ‘Chinese’

  • In both rounds of surveys, a majority of the public (55.9% in the first round and 56.1% in the second round) strongly identify themselves as both ‘Hong Kongers’ and ‘Chinese’. On a scale of 0 to 10, the public’s self-identifications as ‘Hong Kongers’ and as ‘Chinese’ have both increased in the last half year, rising from respectively 7.75 and 6.63 in mid 2017 to respectively 7.93 and 6.71 at the end of 2017.
  • In both rounds of surveys, there is a significant positive correlation between the two identities –the more strongly one is identified with ‘Hong Konger’, the more strongly one is identified with ‘Chinese’; the converse also holds. This is a favourable condition for the implementation of 1C2S.
  • As double identity as ‘Hong Konger’ and ‘Chinese’ is the norm in Hong Kong, traditional surveys (e.g., those of the HKU Public Opinion Programme) that compel interviewees to choose between two identities (‘Hong Konger’ and ‘Chinese’) or choose one among four identities (‘Hong Konger’, ‘Hong Kong Chinese’, ‘Chinese Hong Konger’, and ‘Chinese’) are misleading as they implicitly put the ‘Hong Konger’ and ‘Chinese’ identity as mutually exclusive. Traditional surveys cannot reveal a situation in which the strength of both identities has increased, as they have in the last half year.

(2)  Identity as Chinese across different groups

  • In the second survey, all age groups (18 years to over 70 years old), and also all groups by educational attainment (from primary level to graduate school), have relatively strong identity as “Chinese”, with ratings above the median. In comparison with the first survey, the identity as “Chinese” of the majority of age groups (including Young Adults), and of the majority of groups by educational attainment, have both increased.
  • Pro-establishment supporters and Moderates identify themselves strongly as “Chinese”. The strength of their identification has also increased in the last half year.
  • Though the strength of identification of Pan-Democrats as “Chinese” is slightly above the median, the strength of their identification has fallen. Localists/Self-determinists have relatively weak identity as “Chinese” and the strength of their identification has also fallen in the last half year. The self-identity as “Chinese” of Pan-Democrats and Localists/Self-determinists (23% of our sample) are moving further away from that of the majority. This is a cause for concern.
  • Though the identity of Young Adults (18 to 29 years old) as “Chinese” has strengthened slightly in the last half year; it is only marginally above the median. Policy makers need to work hard to cultivate national identity among Young Adults.
  1. 1C2S MMI (Mass Media Index)
  • By surveying over 123,000 news articles and 61 million words from 20 local daily newspapers, 1C2S MMI monitors how “1C2S” is conveyed in the mass media. The MMI complements our 1C2S Index as media sentiment is an important factor in the formation of public opinion.
  • In the longer run, subject to resource availability, the MMI opens up many opportunities of further research in public opinion formation. The MMI can be compiled at high frequency intervals (e.g. monthly) as it is not subject to the long time lags of surveys. It is also possible to investigate the effect of specific significant events (e.g., co-location arrangement for the Express Rail link) on media sentiment, or to compare sentiments in the local and overseas media.
  • The base month of 1C2S is set at July 2017, the 20th anniversary of the HKSAR. We compiled the MMI from Aril 1998 to December 2017. The overall trend of MMI is compared to two well-known opinion polls on public’s views towards 1C2S, namely, the polls of RTHK and HKU Public Opinion Programme. The trend of the MMI is similar to that of the two polls: Rising in the early 2000’s to a peak around 2007, then falling to a trough around 2014-16 with Occupy Central and the civil unrest in Mongkok, then recovering thereafter.
  • The recent trend of MMI correlates quite closely with significant events. In particular, the MMI dropped sharply by over 20 points from December 2016 to June 2017 when the “Causeway Bay Bookstore” incident and the civil unrest in Mong Kok aroused widespread concern. However, the MMI bottomed out in July 2016, and has risen strongly since December 2017, when CY Leung declared that he would not run for a second term. This rise was further boosted in 2017 when Carrie Lam was elected CE.

We seek to refine our data collection and index construction methodologies, and carry out a public survey every 6 months, in order to calibrate the 1C2S Index for the reference of the public and policy makers.