21 October 2016
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (right) talks about his accomplishments in office during an exclusive interview with TVB. Photo:
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (right) talks about his accomplishments in office during an exclusive interview with TVB. Photo:

Will media interviews help CY Leung boost his falling ratings?

Hong Kong people are seeing a lot of Leung Chun-ying these days.

The Chief Executive is making use of every opportunity to be in the public eye, granting interviews to television programs and radio talk shows as well as Chinese-language newspapers in a bid to remind the people of his accomplishments since he assumed office in 2012.

It’s also a good way to boost his own ego at a time when central government leaders appear to be taking their sweet time in endorsing his run for a second term.

So far, however, his efforts don’t seem to be working.

The results of the latest survey by the Public Opinion Program of the University of Hong Kong released on Tuesday shows that the people’s view of his leadership is far from having improved.

His popularity rating fell by 3.8 marks from early May to 36.2, which is not only below the critical 40 level but, in fact, his lowest low since he became the city’s leader.

His net popularity rating stands at negative 46 percent, down by 5 percentage points from early May and the lowest since he delivered his policy address in mid-January this year.

A closer review of the survey results will show that the younger and more educated the respondents are, the more critical they are of Leung’s administration.

In his media interviews, Leung does not tire of listing down his accomplishments, such as increasing the land supply for residential use, introducing measures to reduce poverty and increasing spending on social welfare.

But are these not enough?

The fact is that Hong Kong people don’t feel the impact of these policies. They still can’t afford to buy a home for their family, many underprivileged households are still waiting for government support.

The fact is many people just don’t believe him any more.

Hong Kong Television Network’s head honcho Ricky Wong Wai-kay, who is running for a seat in the upcoming Legislative Council elections, has hit the nail right in the head with his campaign slogan – “Anyone but CY”.

His slogan reverberates not only with ordinary people who don’t feel any improvement in their economic conditions but also with some members of the pro-establishment camp like those in the Liberal Party.

This spells more trouble for CY, considering that Beijing has asked political allies in Hong Kong to show unity in the face of many challenges from the pro-democracy camp.

While the growing disunity among Beijing loyalists is not a good sign for the central leadership, it also indicates that CY is a divisive leader who is unable to keep everyone in line.

Even the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest pro-Beijing political party in the territory, has advised its members to refrain from expressing their preferences in relation to the March 2017 election, let alone endorse Leung to run for a second term.

Apparently, the DAB leadership is waiting for Beijing’s final word on who to support in the chief executive race.

As if DAB’s noncommittal stance were not enough, Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing is intent on aggravating his migraine by initiating a new round of debate on whether the incumbent chief executive should quit his post to participate the election, just like other candidates in public office.

Tsang said it could be unfair for other candidates if the incumbent is allowed to stay in office and launch policies favoring his election campaign.

In fact, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen applied for leave when he joined the chief executive race in 2007 to compete with Alan Leong Kah-kit of the Civic Party.

Leung, however, is not taking this sitting down, stressing that the current system has been in place for a long time.

“There have been examples in the past of an incumbent chief executive seeking re-election. The Basic Law and other Hong Kong laws do not say the incumbent CE … cannot take part in elections while still in office,” he said.

That may be true, but it is also true that the incumbent has four years to demonstrate his capability as a leader, and that should be enough for the public to decide whether he is worthy of another four years.

The problem is that CY Leung has spent most of his years in office implementing Beijing’s policies that many people believe are inimical to their interests, trying to marginalize the pan-democrats, and fighting perceived enemies in the pro-establishment camp.

His style of governance is so reminiscent of the political struggle resorted to by Chinese leaders to neutralize challengers to their rule.

Meanwhile, Leung is also wooing members of the pro-Beijing camp by inviting them to dinners in order to secure their support.

So even without waiting for Beijing’s blessing, he may have already kicked off his election campaign.

All this has made Leung the single biggest source of social instability in Hong Kong. Never has the community been so divided and so filled with conflicts and suspicions than during his administration.

That’s why the pro-Beijing camp refuses to endorse him. And that’s also the reason the democrats are willing to meet with China’s top leaders – to convince them not inflict CY Leung on Hong Kong for another four years.

Hong Kong people may be willing to have some other incumbent senior official to assume the chief executive post.

There’s Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor or Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who seems to understand the need to uphold the core values of Hong Kong and preserve its uniqueness amid Beijing’s determined efforts to turn the territory into just another mainland city.

Leung’s smiling face will appear more frequently on Hong Kong television screens, but no matter how hard he tries to convince the public of the good things he has done and will do for them, the people will just have one response: Anyone But CY!

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EJ Insight writer

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