HONG KONG • Support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests has slipped and is now getting the backing of a slim majority, as the city braces itself for the imposition of Beijing-drafted national security legislation, a survey showed.
Protests that escalated last June over a since-withdrawn extradition Bill later morphed into a push for greater democracy, often involving violent clashes with the police.
The protests have resumed, but with far fewer participants, since China announced plans for the security law, which has alarmed foreign governments and democracy activists in Hong Kong.
The survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute between June 15 and June 18 showed that a majority in the city oppose the security law.
But it also showed support for protests dropping to 51 per cent from 58 per cent in a March poll, while opposition to them rose to 34 per cent from 28 per cent.
"It may be psychological, because Hong Kong people see Beijing is getting more hardline," said Associate Professor Ming Sing from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's social sciences faculty. "If you keep insisting (on the demands), it's impractical."
The shift in backing for the protests has occurred mainly at the extremes, with those who strongly support them dropping to 34 per cent from 40 per cent and those who strongly oppose them rising to 28 per cent from 21 per cent.
The number of those who "somewhat" support or oppose the protests remained stable.
The movement's demands have also seen a drop in support.
A key demand - the request for an independent commission of inquiry to look into how police handled the protests - saw a 10 percentage point drop to 66 per cent.
"Who would still talk about (protest) demands when the national security law is coming?" said Assistant Professor Samson Yuen from Lingnan University's political science department.
The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, randomly polled 1,002 respondents by phone. The results were weighted according to the latest population figures.
The poll was conducted when Beijing's intention to introduce the national security law was known but few details were available.
The poll showed 49 per cent of respondents strongly opposed Beijing's move, with 7 per cent "somewhat" opposing it. Support for the law added up to 34 per cent, with the rest indifferent or undecided.
"I object to the law because the (Beijing) government is interfering in Hong Kong's business," said engineer Charles Lo, 29.
A retiree in her 50s said: "Before June last year, I didn't think Hong Kong needed national security laws because we were so peaceful and safe, but now I think it's necessary."