Hong Kong men and women are still on the lookout for Western lovers and spouses, even 15 years after the handover, a shock survey shows.
The street poll was conducted by the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - but the controversial findings have drawn flak from some experts who say such "romantics" may just be after money.
The survey was in response to the hit TVB reality show Bride Wannabes which showcased dating strategies that baffled relationship experts and caused controversy in women's rights groups.
But Professor Wong Chak of the Chinese University of Hong Kong warned the poll's figures may be misleading, saying local Chinese are only enamored by expats from the richer Western countries.
Wong, who is also a commentator on current affairs, said people willing to be interviewed on the street tend to be more liberal, so the poll sample may have been biased.
Of the 240 single Hongkongers interviewed - 115 men and 125 women - 57 percent said they would choose expatriates as lifelong partners. Only 45 percent said they would accept mainland Chinese.
Among the males, 68 (59 percent) said they would prefer an expatriate woman as a girlfriend or spouse. The figure for female respondents was 70 (56 percent).
Elizabeth Quat, who organized the survey, said many local Chinese admire foreign culture 15 years after the handover - and celebrity pairings may have influenced the public to follow suit.
"Hongkongers are more receptive to foreign culture, our thoughts more liberal," Quat said. "This is well exemplified by the fact that, increasingly, local female artists prefer marrying foreigners over locals."
But CUHK's Wong disagreed, saying: "This is not an act of admiring the West. Hongkongers do not admire South America, Africa or Eastern Europe. We only admire the richer Western countries."
Wong said that in countries such as the United States, Canada and Britain, people are generally wealthier and better educated with a higher cultural standard. These are the common demands Hong Kong women have for their ideal spouse, so men from these countries better fit their criteria.
The survey ranked dignity, financial capability, personality, understanding and property as the five most important characteristics that Hong Kong women seek in a spouse.
Chinese women marrying foreign men has become a fashionable trend in Shanghai. Over the past seven years at least 2,000 pairings have been made, with women 10 times more likely than men to marry expatriates.
According to local media reports, the wealth of foreign countries is the main reason, followed by access to social status and the desire to satisfy vanity.
Several local celebrities have chosen foreigners instead of Chinese men. Actress Maggie Cheung Man-yuk was married to French director Olivier Assayas for three years and began a relationship with German architect Ole Sheeren in 2007. They separated recently.
Cantopop singer and actress Gigi Leung Wing-kei married her Spanish boyfriend last October, and singer- actress Coco Lee married Canadian Bruce Philip Rockowitz, chief executive of Li & Fung.