18 August 2019
The popularity of John Tsang (left) rose to a one-year high, while C.Y. Leung's also enjoyed a rebound. But the poll did not reflect the public's view on the Mong Kok crackdown over the last few days. Photo: HKEJ, CNSA
The popularity of John Tsang (left) rose to a one-year high, while C.Y. Leung's also enjoyed a rebound. But the poll did not reflect the public's view on the Mong Kok crackdown over the last few days. Photo: HKEJ, CNSA

Tsang at one-year high as Leung rebounds to August levels

Here is a business report you probably won’t read in Apple Daily or other financial newspapers.

The stock of Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah surged to a 12-month high despite a disappointing launch for Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect and the dragging on of the Occupy Central protests.

Tsang, who beat Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, hit 59.5 this month, up from 56.7 a month earlier, in a popularity survey by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. [Go to survey]

Lam’s rating rose to 58.2 from 54.5 in October.

Their boss, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who almost got suspended last month, performed even better.

His rating jumped more than 10 per cent to 42.7, a level not seen since August, when the National People’s Congress Standing Committee announced its framework for constitutional reform in Hong Kong.

Leung’s rebound may be directly linked to President Xi Jinping’s private compliment that “strong winds reveal the strength of sturdy grass”, praising his loyalty and resilience in handling the Occupy protests. 

The proportion of respondents dissatisfied with Leung’s administration fell to 43 percent from 50.2 percent last month.

Now, the popularity of officials in surveys has historically fluctuated and will continue to fluctuate.

But the data in the latest poll is not “marked to market”, because the survey was done from Nov. 20 to 24 and did not take into account any reaction to the arrest Wednesday of student leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, who has risen to No. 3 in Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” poll.

By removing Liberal Party leader James Tien from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference on Oct. 29 after he publicly suggested that Leung consider resigning, Beijing sent a clear signal that it will not sack the chief executive, especially amid social instability and dissension within the pro-establishment camp.

The central government was afraid sacking Leung would give the rest of the country the impression that civil disobedience works.

So if Leung’s popularity continues to increase (which will indicate that the establishment camp has become united again) while the Occupy protesters’ morale keeps falling, Beijing will have more room to reconsider changing the chief executive.

In this light, Leung might not want his popularity to rebound too far.

After all, investment lore says sell a stock when its price goes up.

Moreover, an investor (Beijing) only needs to rely on his fund manager (chief executive) during difficult market conditions. In a bullish market, why would you want a fund manager to share your gains? 

Perhaps this is why Leung sent riot police to Mong Kok over the last few days to re-energize the Umbrella Movement.

Likewise, we are not sure if Tsang, a.k.a. Mr. Pringles, was worth his rating.

While he is among the best inherited from Donald Tsang’s administration, he does not seem to be sweating, unlike his fellow ministers, in one of the most difficult times faced by any Hong Kong government.

Compared with Carrie Lam, a.k.a. the Underwriter, because she has the new assignment of handling a special committee for youth – not to mention her other tough tasks in developing the West Kowloon Cultural District, reducing poverty and promoting political reform – Tsang appears to work part time.

His main job, we know, is writing his Sunday blog posts.

This month, he even forgot to bring his identity card when called as a witness to court.

But he got smarter when taking over as acting chief executive while Leung and Lam were away.

And his popularity seems not to have been affected by the disappointing debut of Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect, in which the flow of funds from Hong Kong to Shanghai was way higher than that in the reverse direction.

He should at least be criticized for failing to meet the city’s expectation of a through train that benefits Hong Kong, rather than just the mainland.

But perhaps a happy-go-lucky minister is what we want for now.

Tsang was seen to be popular with the crowd attending the Wine and Dine Festival, and we are not sure if his fellow senior officials, especially Leung, have that kind of relationship with ordinary people.

Buried in the survey results was the finding that people under 30 gave Leung a mark of 30.8, much lower than the 49.8 he got from older respondents.

Young Hongkongers’ disapproval is not, however, an issue for Mr. Pringle.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

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