Press Release

22 March 2021


Slight drop of 1C2S Index to historic low at 5.48, international indices are expected to decline further due to straining relations


(Press Release) Path of Democracy is releasing the latest 1C2S index today (22 March), which is recorded at 5.48, resultant of the 3.37 given by the public and 7.59 given by international thinktanks. Since the last report, the international community’s regard for Hong Kong experienced some remarkable declines, while the public evaluation continued to drop at an attenuated rate. In the latter half of 2020, the index fell further from 5.49 to 5.48, producing a new lowest since the inception of the index.


Confidence in 1C2S close to bottoming

Public opinion on the nine dimensions of 1C2S is derived from a telephone poll survey conducted by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong from 22 December 2020 to 13 January 2021. 1,002 individuals, aged 18 or above were randomly sampled, with a response rate of 32.5%. The score fell from 3.39 in June 2020 to 3.37 in January 2021.


Three of the nine dimensions rebounded to late-2019 levels but ‘independent judiciary’ and ‘freedom of speech’ experienced sharpest drops of 0.16 and 0.12, their latest scores are respectively 4.00 and 3.92. Co-convenor (Research) of Path of Democracy, Ray Poon, who is in charge of the 1C2S Index, believed that the postponement of the Legco election and the various arrests made under the National Security Law apparently served as a telltale sign of the persecution of opposition voices.



International thinktanks’ regard of 1C2S expected to fall

The International index score is derived from Cato-Fraser Institutes’ Economic Freedom Index and Personal Freedom Index, and the Economic Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index. The score encountered a slight decline from the estimate of 7.74 in 2019 to 7.59 in 2020. Due to time lag in the compilation of international indices, further decline at the international level is anticipated given the perceived deterioration in rule of law, freedom of association and freedom of expression.


Rebounds in media sentiment

To monitor how 1C2S is conveyed in the mass media and thereby engineering the formation of public sentiment, Path of Democracy have mined close to 157,000 news articles from 21 newsagents in Hong Kong to compile the Mass Media Index.


Against the backdrop of the enactment of National Security Law, the postponement of the LegCo election for a year, the immediate disqualification of four lawmakers following an NPCSC decision and the arrest of pro-democracy mogul Jimmy Lai, MMI managed to embark on an upward trend and was seen rising from 66.7 to 78.6 in January 2021. The rise coincided with Xi’s assuring remark on the future of 1C2S in a speech he delivered for the 40th anniversary of Shenzhen SEZ and the place of 1C2S in China’s 14th Five-Year Plan and the 2035 Vision.


Sign of Deradicalization

After months of accelerating political polarization, the latest round showed that the phenomenon eventually eased and was beginning to reverse. The proportion of moderates returned to its late-2019 level at 53.6%, having risen by 3.6 percentage points. Pro-establishment supporters also embarked on a recovery trend after a 1.5 percentage-point increase, its population-makeup of 10.6% just surpassed the resistance camp which witnessed a dramatic decrease of over a quarter to only 9.3% in proportion. Taken together, different trajectories displayed by the above groups signified the more than year-long polarization is now showing signs of alleviation, matching the subsiding momentum of the 2019 social movement.


Overwhelming support for the continuation of 1C2S

Despite the fall in the Index, overall support for the continuation of 1C2S beyond 2047 remained overwhelmingly high at 74.1%. Support across all groups with different political inclinations varied narrowly within a few percentage points. Though the public’s current evaluation of 1C2S is quite critical, the majority of them still regard 1C2S as the right system for Hong Kong’s future.


For most people, ‘maintaining a high degree of autonomy’ (66.4%) remained the most favourable condition to the continuation of 1C2S. The support rate for ‘democratising further’ remained at 53.3%, as with the last round, and continued to surpass ‘maintaining economic prosperity and stability’ (51.6%) as the second most important condition.


Convenor of Path of Democracy, Ronny Tong suggested that assertive responses from Beijing may introduce a stabilizing element to the 1C2S model in the long-run, bringing down radical views and certain actions. He also believed that the electoral reform will not affect the democratization of elections as the two do not necessarily contract each other.


Divergence of citizens’ identity as ‘Hongkongers’ and ‘Chinese’


Citizens’ self-identification as ‘Hongkongers’ or ‘Chinese’ started to diverge after a period of parallel increase. Although the divide appeared to be narrowing down in the latest round, the gap was still wide. Since June 2020, the public’s self-identification as ‘Hongkongers’ dropped from 8.55 to 8.26 while that as ‘Chinese’ rose from 4.38 to 4.73, both returning to late-2019 levels.


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