Hong Kong Police Force approval rating nears historic low, reason not specified

Police in riot gear during an extradition bill protest. Photo by Vicky Wong.
Police in riot gear during an extradition bill protest. Photo by Vicky Wong.

Approval ratings for the Hong Kong Police Force fell to 22 percent in the latest polling from University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme.

Though the institution has been polling residents on their approval of the force since the 1997 handover, their polls don’t include information from participants explaining why they responded the way did.

Man getting sprayed by police who were clearing out Lung Wo Road during the extradition bill protests. Screengrab via Apple Daily video.
Man getting sprayed by police who were clearing out Lung Wo Road during the extradition bill protests. Screengrab via Apple Daily video.

In HKU’s telephone poll of more than 1,000 Hongkongers, the city’s police force was given a net positive rating of 22 percent. Though it was released on Tuesday, the survey was carried out from June 3 to 6.

By comparison, in the same survey, the People’s Liberation Army garrison had a net approval rating of about 35 percent.

The rating was the lowest among the city’s nine disciplinary forces. The force with the highest rating was the Fire Services Department.

It was also the lowest satisfaction rating the police have had since a 2015 poll taken in the aftermath of the city’s failed Umbrella Movement. That poll put the net approval rating at about 21 percent.

Screengrab via YouTube/Now TV.
Screengrab via YouTube/Now TV.

The force’s approval ratings had remained relatively steady for decades, only dropping below 50 percent once between 1997 and 2011. For most of that time, the net positive approval percentage tended to fluctuate between the mid-70s and mid-50s.

In recent years, however, that approval rating has declined significantly and failed to recover.

Police hold down protesters who was carrying water bottles. Screengrab via Facebook/Campus TV.
Police hold down protesters who was carrying water bottles. Screengrab via Facebook/Campus TV.

Approval first dropped below 40 percent in 2011, bouncing back slightly to 51 percent, before cratering again to 36 percent in 2013. It hasn’t crested 40 percent since.

This week’s survey will be the Public Opinion Programme’s last as part of the University of Hong Kong, with the program spinning off into an independent body called the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, which will need to secure its own funding.

“In its last survey on the popularity of disciplinary forces released today, HKUPOP gives its final alert to the Hong Kong Police Force as many of its popularity indicators drop to new lows in recent years,” Tuesday’s release states. “Robert Chung the Director of HKUPOP calls for both the government and the people to treasure the clean and professional image of the Force, because it was built up in a very hard way.”

It remains to be seen whether the body will be able to continue to release further surveys on the public’s approval of the police force that take into account, ahem, more recent events.


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