Hong Kong Citizens’ Trust in Government Plummets Amid Controversial Article 23 Legislation

HONG KONG (AP) — Public trust in the Hong Kong government has plummeted even further as the city pushes for the implementation of its own security laws. A recent survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) revealed that citizens’ trust in the government dropped by more than 10% from the previous month. This decline signals the potential long-term implications of the Article 23 legislation in the face of China’s increasing involvement in Hong Kong.

According to the survey, public trust fell from 46% in January to 39% this month, while distrust increased from 38% to 42%. Combining these two measures, there was an overall decline of 11 percentage points. Additionally, confidence in Hong Kong’s future saw a significant decrease of 16 percentage points.

The negative sentiments towards the government arose as the general public was bombarded with news about the Article 23 consultation, which directly relates to their government and their future. Chris Li, a political scholar, highlighted the connection between the public’s concerns and their government’s legislation process. The one-month public consultation for Article 23 legislation concluded on Wednesday.

Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law requires the city to establish its own laws to criminalize acts of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against Beijing. However, this move has faced controversy in the past. A failed attempt was made in 2003 after mass protests, leading to the shelving of the legislation until China imposed the National Security Law (NSL) in 2020.

Last month, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee vowed to complete the legislation of Article 23 this year, emphasizing the importance of addressing public discontent, as well as economic and social issues.

While citizens believed that the judicial system and judges’ handling of cases were fair, their concerns regarding the legislative process for Article 23 were evident. They worried that the provisions in the government’s draft legislation might jeopardize fundamental values such as freedom of speech, assembly, association, and international cooperation.

Robert Chung, Chief Executive of PORI, warned about the potential consequences of these concerns hindering international collaboration. He highlighted that if Hong Kong loses its ability to converge the East and the West in a civilized manner, it will face difficulty in achieving governance and prosperity.

To address the public’s concerns, authorities plan to establish internal standards and management systems to avoid crossing any red lines. However, clarity on the new regulations will require time for adjustment within the judicial system and courts.

The implementation of the National Security Law has already led to the outflow of foreign and domestic capital, as well as skilled individuals over the past three years. Moreover, international criticism and backlash are expected as Hong Kong moves forward with the legislation of Article 23. Despite this, the Legislative Council’s “Basic Law Subcommittee” expressed a societal consensus to complete the legislation as soon as possible.

Concerns have also been raised regarding the inclusion of Taiwan as an “external force” under the Article 23 legislation. This question was posed by lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen during the subcommittee’s first meeting.

The decline in public trust in the Hong Kong government reflects ongoing anxieties surrounding the city’s legislative efforts. As citizens grapple with the potential implications of the Article 23 legislation, the government must work to regain public confidence and address the pressing concerns raised during the public consultation process.