15 December 2019
Following the backlash over her extradition bill, Carrie Lam has, not surprisingly, seen her approval ratings hit a historic low. Photo: Bloomberg
Following the backlash over her extradition bill, Carrie Lam has, not surprisingly, seen her approval ratings hit a historic low. Photo: Bloomberg

Carrie Lam becomes least popular HK leader ever, poll shows

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor might not have expected, when taking office two years ago, that she could one day become less popular among the public than all of her predecessors, but she is facing that grim reality now in the wake of the extradition bill fiasco.

According to the latest survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Program (HKUPOP), Lam’s popularity rating stands at a historic low of 32.8 following her controversial plan to enact a law that would have allowed transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China.

The latest figure not only represents a significant slide of 10.5 points from a similar poll conducted two weeks ago, it also marks her weakest popularity level since she became Hong Kong’s leader.

Moreover, it is also the lowest popularity rating that any Hong Kong chief executive has received since the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.

By comparison, while in office as chief executive, the first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s lowest popularity rating was 36.2, while that for Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Leung Chun-ying were 39.3 and 37, respectively.

HKUPOP also noted that Lam set the lowest record in less than two years at office, compared to Tung’s six years and Leung’s four and half years.

The survey, based on random phone interviews with 1,015 Hong Kong residents, was conducted between June 17 and 20, after Lam announced that she was suspending the extradition bill following a huge uproar from citizens and mass protests.

According to the results released on Tuesday, Lam’s approval rate was 23 percent, and disapproval rate 67 percent, giving net popularity of negative 44 percentage points, which represented a drop of 20 points and marked a record low since she took office.

The younger and the more educated the respondents were, the more they were critical of Lam as chief executive in terms of support rate, the HKUPOP said.

Among the respondents aged between 18 and 29, nine in 10 said they oppose Lam as chief executive. The ratio was 57 percent among those aged 50 or above.

The survey also found that the public’s satisfaction rate on the government stood at 18 percent, and the dissatisfaction rating at 72 percent, giving a net satisfaction rate of negative 53 percentage points.

That represents a sharp drop of 25 points, reaching the lowest since July 2003, when half a million people took to the streets to protest the government’s plan to enact a national security law.

As for people’s trust in the government, the trust rate was 28 percent, and distrust rate at 60 per cent, giving a net trust of negative 32 percentage points, a record low since the survey question was first asked in 1992.

People said they were least satisfied with the current political condition. The corresponding net satisfaction was negative 74 percentage points, also the worst since the survey question was first asked in 1992, compared to negative 14 points for economic condition and negative 41 points for livelihood condition.

HKUPOP director Dr. Robert Chung Ting-yiu called on Lam and her administration to find ways as soon as possible to resolve the current governance crisis.

Meanwhile, former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang told a radio program on Tuesday that Lam’s resignation will not help.

While Lam is undoubtedly responsible for the entire saga, it might be difficult to find somebody else to take up the top job, RTHK quoted Chan as saying.

If somebody has to be held accountable and step down, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah bears great responsibility since she is the top legal adviser to the government, Chan said.

“She should have anticipated the furor that will be created by this rendition or extradition proposal because it removes the essential firewall between Hong Kong’s rule of law system and the rule of men system prevailing in China where nobody can be assured of having a fair and open trial,” she said.

According to Chan, it would be better to give the chief executive a second chance to improve her leadership style, and fix ties with various sectors of society.

Lam should learn from the extradition bill blunder and should now respond to citizens’ demands as soon as possible, including complete withdrawal of the bill and establishing an independent commission of inquiry to look into the June 12 incidents, when police used strong-arm tactics including firing tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators, the former top civil servant said.

Lam need to change her direction of leadership and governance in coming three years, and listen to public voices more, Chan added.

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