Can CY Leung still govern Hong Kong effectively?

September 02, 2015 14:50
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's popularity rating has plunged to a new low, according to the latest survey. Photo: Reuters

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying still has two years left in office, but his growing unpopularity has made it more difficult for him to govern Hong Kong.

His approval rating hit a new low last month, the Public Opinion Program of the University of Hong Kong announced on Tuesday.

The latest survey shows that Leung’s support rate now stands at 38.5 marks, the lowest since he became chief executive in 2012. His approval rate now stands at 22 percent and his disapproval rate at 62 percent, giving him a net popularity of negative 39 percentage points. 

The popularity of the SAR government has also plunged from the previous month. Its satisfaction rate now stands at 21 percent while its dissatisfaction rate is at 50 percent, giving it a net satisfaction rate of negative 29 percentage points.

According to the HKU POP, a political figure who has scored less than 50 marks is considered to have fallen into negative popularity, while a score of less than 45 marks indicates a credibility crisis.

That can explain why Leung is losing his legitimacy to rule Hong Kong as more than half of Hong Kong people do not want him to govern the city.

An analysis of the poll results shows that the younger and more educated the respondents, the more critical they are of Leung as chief executive.

But it seems all age groups are dissatisfied with Leung's performance as a leader; youngsters, middle-aged people and the elderly all registered a more than 50 percent opposition to Leung as chief executive.

The survey shows that Leung has failed to win support across different age groups -- from youngsters to senior citizens, who are supposed to be the key support group of the administration.

Leung's loss of support from the elderly group may be due to his decision to fire his home affairs secretary Tsang Tak-Shing and his administration's incompetent handling of the water contamination crisis.

Leung, who claimed to have a keen understanding of public opinion trends when he was running for chief executive in 2012, failed to deliver on his campaign promises, particularly in increasing the number of flats to meet domestic demand and restructuring the local economy to reduce its reliance on the financial and property sectors.

His failure to make substantial gains in these crucial areas of concern shows his lack of frontline policy planning experience and weak links with the civil service team that executes his policies.

As a result, Leung was forced to form his own team outside of the existing civil service bureaucracy, as exemplified by his appointment of Nicholas Yang as his technology consultant and Sophia Kao Ching-chi as his consultant in appointments in senior government and statutory bodies, overriding the power of the civil service secretary.

Loyalists used to voice doubts over the accuracy of negative surveys on Leung's popularity, saying that they do not reflect the real support that he enjoys in the community.

But the crisis resulting from the lead-contaminated water supply has convinced many people, including those from his traditional support groups, that Leung and his senior officials are not capable of dealing with issues that affect them most.

One such official is the Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim. People have doubted his competence since he was appointed in 2012. 

His popularity has suffered a great deal since the administration tried to introduce a moral and national education curriculum.

His incompetence was once again exposed when he manifested his inability to deal with the water contamination crisis that has spread into local schools, particularly in kindergartens.

Ng initially refused to test the water supply in all kindergartens or install water filters to help protect the health and welfare of highly vulnerable children.

He was quoted as saying that since children stay in school for only a short while, there is no need for such measures to be taken.

His remarks drew fierce criticism from both the Professional Teachers Union, a pro-democracy group, and pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, who criticized the government's lack of sensitivity in dealing with this threat to the health of schoolchildren.

But with the start of the schoolyear, the government reversed its stance on the issue. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that water supply tests will be conducted in kindergartens across the territory to ensure the safety of tap water for schoolchildren, noting that kids under six are most vulnerable to lead contamination.

As Lam tries her best to win back public trust over the water contamination issue, CY Leung continues to play his political games.

Of course, he has to be in Beijing to watch the grand military parade on Thursday, but Hong Kong people want their leader to be concerned about their welfare, and not one who only thinks of politics or how to please his Beijing bosses.

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EJ Insight writer