4 out of 10 Hong Kong citizens back China

Hong Kong: Patriotism towards China has hit a new peak in Hong Kong ahead of the Beijing Olympics with nearly four in every 10 people considering themselves Chinese rather than Hong Kongers, according to a survey released Wednesday.The figure in the six-monthly poll by the University of Hong Kong is the highest recorded since the former British colony reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.Thirty nine percent of interviewees said they considered themselves Chinese compared to 27 percent in December 2007, while 18 percent said they were Hong Kongers, down from 23 percent six months ago.Forty two percent of the more than 1,000 people interviewed for the survey said they thought of themselves as a mix of Hong Kongers and Chinese.One month after the 1997 handover, in the same poll, less than 20 percent of respondents said they considered themselves Chinese while 35 percent considered themselves Hong Kongers. A separate poll run by Hong Kong's Chinese University using different criteria last month found that 55 percent of people in the city considered themselves Chinese compared to 28 percent who saw themselves as Hong Kongers.Hong Kong was a British colony for 156 years before reverting to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 under a 'one country, two systems' arrangement that guarantees political and judicial freedoms for the next 50 years.The city has been the scene of anti-China protests in the past over lack of democracy and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.However, the city has grown politically closer to China in recent years, with demands for universal suffrage, which brought 500,000 demonstrators to the streets in 2003, gradually dying out as economic prosperity has increased.Hong Kong will host the equestrian events of the Beijing Olympics in August. An enthusiastic pro-China crowd greeted the Olympic torch in Hong Kong and drowned out protesters at the beginning of May.