September 22, 2014 / 4:23 AM / in 4 years

One in five Hong Kong residents consider leaving over cloudy political future: survey

HONG KONG (Reuters) - More than a fifth of Hong Kong residents are considering leaving the city, spurred by concerns about its political future, a survey by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed.

Pro-democracy protesters from the banking and financial sector carry banners and placards during a demonstration ahead of the Occupy Central civil disobedience movement at Hong Kong's Central district September 18, 2014. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Hong Kong residents are uneasy after months of rallies, protests and an unofficial referendum have exposed political rifts in the Asian financial hub.

Just over 21 percent of the 1,006 respondents to a survey released on Sunday said they would consider emigrating. The last major emigration from Hong Kong was right before it was returned to Chinese Communist Party rule in 1997.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was given wide-ranging autonomy and an undated promise of “universal suffrage” when it was returned to China under a “one country, two systems” form of government.

Now, activists are demanding a fully democratic election for the city’s next chief executive in 2017, while Beijing says it will only allow residents to pick between pre-screened candidates selected by a pro-Beijing nominating committee.

“In recent years, controversies over political reforms in Hong Kong have become serious,” the university said in a statement.

Managing Hong Kong is proving a challenge for Beijing, which is worried that calls for democracy in Hong Kong and the nearby former Portuguese colony of Macau could spread to cities on the mainland, threatening the Communist Party’s grip on power.

On average, survey respondents said they did not trust the Hong Kong or Beijing governments, and more than half, or 53.7 percent, said Hong Kong’s legislature should veto any proposal that bars candidates for the post of the city’s chief executive from holding political views different from Beijing’s.

Young people with higher levels of education felt most strongly.

However, fewer than a third of respondents said they supported the Occupy Central with Love and Peace movement which plans to shut down the city’s central business district to press its demand for fully democratic elections in coming weeks.

The survey, based on telephone interviews with Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong residents, was organized by the university’s Centre for Communication and Public Opinion, and conducted between Sept. 10 and 17.

Reporting by Clare Baldwin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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