One Country Two Systems Index

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.

Summary of results (Feb 2019)

1) 1C2S Public Survey

(1.1) Index (A) (average of 9 dimensions) declined from 5.05 to 4.84, falling by 4.2% since the 3rd survey in mid-2018. This was the first time in the 4 surveys that the decline in Index (A) was statistically significant, sending a worrisome signal. Moreover, all 9 sub-scores declined. The declines in 3 items, namely, maintaining original ways of life, freedom of speech, and legislative independence, were statistically significant. Though people’s support for continuation of 1C2S after 2017 was high, their evaluations of 1C2S as currently implemented were relatively low.

(1.2) The range of the ratings of the 9 dimensions is relatively narrow, ranging from 4 to 6 plus, most plausibly because the public generally hold a ‘holistic rating’ on 1C2S.

2) International Assessments of Hong Kong’s Freedom and Democracy

(2.1) 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). HK is always ranked world’s number one in Economic Freedom, with a score of around 9 (Table 2).

(2.2) Personal Freedom Index: HK’s score peaked at 9.07 in 2011, declining to 8.58 in 2016, and declined further to an estimated 8.52 in 2017. Hong Kong’s rank peaked at 14th in 2012, falling to 32th in 2016. The decline since 2013 has been quite steep. Despite the decline, HK’s 2017 score of 8.52 is still relatively high.

(2.3) Democracy Index: HK’s score rose from 5.92 in 2010 to a peak of 6.50 in 2015, rising by 9.8%, reflecting that HK has made some progress in democratization via the increase of directly elected seats in the Legislature. However, HK’s score fell to 6.15 in 2018, a drop of 5.4% from the peak in 2015, reflecting the disqualification of candidates running for the Legislature on allegations of supporting separatism. However, HK’s 2018 score and rank are still better than those in 2011.

(2.4) Index (B), the Freedom and Democracy Index: HK’s score rose from 7.99 in 2010 to a peak of 8.14 in 2012, rising by 1.9%, largely as a result of the rise in HK’s Democracy Index. In 2018, Index (B) declined to 7.89, falling by 3.1% from the peak.

3) 1C2S Mass Media Index (1C2S MMI)

(3.1) MMI shows media sentiments towards 1C2S since April 1998. It is compiled from data-mining 132,500 news articles and 66 million words in 20 local daily newspapers. MMI is set at 100 in the base month of July 2017, the 20th anniversary of HK’s return to China.

(3.2) After reaching a nadir of 73 points in mid-2016 after the ‘Causeway Bay Bookstore’ incident and Mongkok riot, MMI bottomed out and rose strongly in late 2016, when CY Leung announced that he would not run for a second term (Figure 5).

(3.3) Subsequently, MMI rose to a peak of 105 points in March 2018 under the new administration of Carrie Lam. However, the trend reversed in mid-2018, declining to 90 points in late 2018, falling by 15%.

Index score

Based on the results of the survey, and comparative analysis of international indices. The performance of 1C2X implementation stands at:


Evaluations of 1C2S

Index (A), evaluations of the HK public, were around 5, the median of the 0 to 10 scale.
In comparison to the evaluations of international thinktanks, the evaluations of the HK public are less positive, suggesting that the public is more demanding in their assessments due to their high expectations of 1C2S. HK’s people’s starting point is a system with a sophisticated legal system that enshrines both rule of law and personal freedoms, and gradual democratization that had already been in progress prior to the return to China. These in turn induced greater expectations amongst the public with respect to self-governance and human rights enshrined by the Basic Law.

As will be seen below in section 4, more than 76% of the public agreed to the continuation of 1C2S after 2047. Support was high across all groups in HK, including ‘Localists or Self-determinists’, who are known to be highly critical of 1C2S. Though the public’s current evaluation of 1C2S is quite critical, the still regard 1C2S as the system for HK’s future.

Though the Index declined from 6.42 in the first round to 6.30 in the fourth round, it is still well over the median of 5. While 1C2S has problems in implementation, as could be expected of any unprecedented system, it is clearly not unworkable. The decline in the 4th round should be viewed in this context.