A senior Chinese official based in Hong Kong isn't happy that most people in the city identify themselves as "Hong Kong citizens" than "Chinese citizens" after a recent survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong.
Hao Tiechuan from the central government's liaison office criticized the poll as "unscientific" and "illogical" the way the questions were posed.
The survey asked 1,000 people to rank how strongly they felt as a "Hong Kong citizen" from zero to 10, with 10 being the highest. The average rating was 8.23 points, a 10-year high. For their identity as "Chinese citizens" the average was 7.01 points, a 12-year low.
When combined into an "identity index" from zero to 100, the respondents had the strongest feelings as "Hong Kong citizens" at 79.1 points, and the weakest was 61.1 points as "citizens of the People's Republic of China".
Hao was irked that "Hong Kong citizen" was even an option in the survey as he said in an interview: "Hong Kong is not an independent political entity. If [a Hong Kong citizen] is not a Chinese citizen, which country's citizen would he be? The correct approach, he said, should be to ask respondents whether they viewed themselves as "British citizens" or 'Chinese citizens".
Media reports added Hao was voicing his personal opinion.
Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu of HKU the author of the survey, has conducted this poll every year since 1997. He diplomatically said he would consider adding "British citizen" to the questionnaire next time.
So why is Hao speaking out about it now in what is considered a rare attack on an academic study?
He obviously doesn't like the results and if this was the mainland, the numbers would probably never be published.
This outburst is very interesting because Chinese officials seem to keep very close tabs on what is happening in Hong Kong and the opinions of its public.
So why should it be any surprise that people here identify themselves as Hong Kong citizens?
Perhaps it's the massive influx of mainlanders coming to the city to live or visit and buying up expensive flats, milk powder, designer handbags and eating up all the abalone and shark fin that make Hong Kong people feel like second-class citizens in their own hometown?
Maybe we are reaching the tipping point of Hong Kongers eager to differentiate themselves from their mainland cousins. They identify themselves as Chinese people, but first and foremost they are from Hong Kong.
What are you going to do about that, Mr Hao?