What Do Singaporeans Really Think Of Hong Kong? Let’s Look At The Numbers
What do Singaporeans really think of the Hong Kong Protests?

In recent months, much ink has been spilled on this subject. Hong Kong-based journalists have tried to explain Singapore’s relative tranquility, while Singaporean pundits have called on Hong Kong’s protesters to stop this madness at once

In the post-protest op-ed buffet, you can enjoy a wide selection of theories and opinions. There are editorials on why Singaporeans aren’t revolting, why Singaporeans don’t understand Hong Kong, and lengthy think pieces explaining the cultural differences between SG and HK.

However, the relentless editorialising does not seem to have made the situation any clearer. One recent post in r/Hongkong accused Singaporeans of ‘abandoning’ Hong Kong, but this narrative was hotly disputed by Singaporean Redditors. Some claimed that pro-China Facebook comments were made by ‘Zuckerbots’, while others suggested they were legitimate opinions from older Singaporeans who did not ‘understand’ the protests.

It’s all a bit confusing, so we decided to survey a total of 1055 Singapore residents with the help of independent research company, Milieu Insight

Here’s what we learned from the survey results:

Singaporeans are falling out of love with the Hong Kong protests

When the protests began, nearly a third (32%) of Singaporeans sided with the protesters. Only 17% support the HK government.

Since then, support for the protesters has fallen to just 19%. When asked ‘Who do you support more CURRENTLY in the HK protests’, less than a fifth of all Singaporeans expressed solidarity with the black-clad protesters.

Meanwhile, support for the embattered HK government has risen from 17% to, well, 32%. In the PR battle for hearts and minds, Carrie Lam and her detractors seemed to have swapped places over the last couple of months.

But Why Tho

Most respondents cited a variety of reasons for why they no longer support the HK protests. However, the number one reason is ‘public safety’. 

When we asked the ex-supporters why they no longer supported the demonstrations, 87% chose the option ‘the escalated violence is threatening the safety of the people’. 76% expressed concern for the wellbeing of Hong Kong citizens, while 70% believed that the protests have lost their original purpose.

For those who still support the protests, the problem is simpler. 82% of the pro-protest camp believe demonstrations must continue because the HK government has not done enough to address the protester’s demands.

Yes, there is a generational divide

Unfortunately, not everyone who supports the HK government is a CCP bot. Reddit user sgtaguy is right. There is a clear divide between younger Singaporeans who support the protests, and an older generation who mostly disapproves.

However, pro-protest sentiments have fallen across the board. In our youngest age group of 16-29 year old, support has fallen from 40 to 26%. This change in sentiment is more pronounced in older respondents. In the age group 45 years and above, pro-protest sentiments have been halved from 23% to just 11%. The majority in that age group (43%) now side with the HK government.

I’m afraid you can’t blame it on bots or China trolls. Many Singaporeans do oppose the demonstrations—in principle.

Or else, the lightning god

Age is just one fault line. The more prominent divide is political affiliation. 

Opposition supporters showed a high degree of support for the HK protests when they first started (54%) and they continue to do so today (41%).

For PAP supporters, the situation is a little more complicated. Initially, PAP supporters were evenly split between pro-protest (29%) and pro-govt (28%). As the violence escalated, pro-protest sentiments fell to 14% while approval of the HK govt increased significantly to 44%.

I’m not sure what to make of this information, but there appears to be some truth in the cliche that incumbent voters mainly crave ‘stability’.

This is what equality looks like?

By and large, there isn’t a great difference of opinion between Singaporeans from different income brackets. Whether you earn less than $6k, more than $12k, or somewhere in-between, support for the protesters is currently hovering at around 20%. (down from 32%)

The only difference is, awareness/emotional investment seems to increase according to household income. The lowest income bracket (less than $6k) displayed the highest degree of apathy with 37-38% answering ‘I have no opinion’ to our queries. In contrast, only 30% from the highest income bracket expressed a lack of opinion.

Neither Heroes Nor Villains

If you read just the ST comment section, you could be forgiven for thinking that Singapore is more vehemently anti-protest than Xi Jinping himself. Not only is there zero sympathy for the protesters who were shot, some even encouraged the police to adopt a more liberal attitude towards bullet distribution.

This is probably not true. In reality, most Singaporeans have a more nuanced view of the situation. 17% blamed the HK govt, 21% blame China and 24% blamed the protesters for escalating tensions. However, the clear majority of survey respondents (34%) chose the option: ‘No one party is solely responsible’. To me, this shows a certain amount of balance/measure in thinking about the Hong Kong crisis.

However, protesters who allege ‘police brutality’ will find no sympathy in S’pore. Only 4% of those surveyed blamed the violence on HK’s police force.

Taiwan Numbah One

19%? Widespread disapproval? Right now, Rice Media’s non-existent Communist party readership is probably rubbing their hands with glee.

Their happiness is probably premature. Although Singapore’s support for the protests is quickly slipping away, this does not equate to commensurate increase for Beijing or its policies. Most Singaporeans have no feelings or opinions about China, but for those who do, anti-China sentiments still outnumber their pro-China counterparts. 

Pro-China sentiments are in short supply especially amongst the younger population. Just 2% of those aged between 16 – 29 said they were ‘strongly in support’ of the Chinese government. This number increases to 9% if you include those who were ‘somewhat supportive’, but all in all, Beijing is doing quite poorly on the soft power front.

Nothing on the inside, Nothing on the outside

Image credit: Wikimedia
Some support Carrie. Some support Xi. Some want to join the protesters like George Orwell in the Spanish Civil War. However, the largest faction consists of people who simply do not give a flying fuck. Nearly everyone (99%) has read about the protests, or heard of what’s happening in HK. However, most people simply don’t care. Of the 1055 people surveyed, about 380 (36%) had no opinion of the issue whatsoever.

A significant number—13%—excused themselves by saying they did not know enough about the subject.

In contrast to the high degree of political mobilisation in HK, it seems that most Singaporeans are—true to form—quite apathetic when it comes to politics. Despite a GE around the corner and Nationalism rising around the world, a shrug of the shoulder is still our default response to the category of news broadly termed ‘current affairs’.

I could try to explain this by delivering a lecture on how authoritarian governments cultivate apathy as a means of political control, but really, what’s the point? I’ve already exceeded my word limit and I’m sure you’ve heard—lived—all the old arguments. I hope you enjoyed these statistics. They’ve certainly set my mind ablaze.

Disclaimer: The survey respondents are a mixture of Singaporeans, PRs and Foreigners. With Singaporean citizens making up 85% of the sample. 

“People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day”. Write to us at community@ricemedia.co.

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