Leung's bid to sell revamp falls flat

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2012, 12:00am

Hongkongers are oddly split over the government revamp sought by chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying.

Opposition is growing sharply, yet far more people still oppose the filibuster by lawmakers to block the restructuring, according to a poll commissioned by the South China Morning Post.

The Post commissioned the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme to poll people on their views on Leung's restructuring plans, which involve giving the chief secretary and financial secretary a new deputy and increasing the number of bureaus from 12 to 14.

Pollsters interviewed 512 people between Wednesday and Friday.

Despite the hard work by Leung and his aides to sell the plan, opposition was 28.6 per cent - up 6.5 points from last month's findings in a poll carried out by the same pollsters.

The poll found 21.2 per cent supported the plan, while 41 per cent were neutral.

Late last night, the government asked lawmakers to give priority to scrutinising Leung's 'time critical' revamp plan.

Such a request normally requires 12 days' notice.

But Legco president Tsang Yok-sing exercised his discretion and said he would ignore the notice period, much to the anger of pan-democrat lawmakers.

Tsang said the government knew in advance that the controversial resolution relating to the revamp would be tabled today and he also saw the urgency of tabling it.

Tsang has set aside 55 hours for the plenary meeting to run from today to Friday, plus Monday and Tuesday.

The resolution faces more than 160 amendments filed by People Power lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip and Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan.

In the latest survey, opposition is much higher among better educated and young people: 40.8 per cent of respondents with tertiary education oppose it, compared with 23.2 per cent with secondary school education.

Among those in the 18-29 age group, opposition was 35.9 per cent, dropping to 24.2 per cent in the above-50 group.

At the same time, nearly half the respondents disagreed with a filibuster to block the restructuring.

People Power lawmakers' plan to move nearly 1,000 motions on the restructuring in an attempt to delay its passage, but the HKU poll found 48.9 per cent oppose that idea, 3.1 points more than last month. Only 18.1 per cent supported a filibuster.

'The proposal does not have clear support from the public, but any filibustering attempt is also not welcomed,' Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, director of the public opinion programme, said. 'Perhaps Leung can consider implementing his proposal in two stages, such as restructuring the bureaus first and then adding the deputy secretaries.'

The survey had a 68.3 per cent response rate and a sampling error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Under the contingency plan announced by outgoing Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung yesterday, ministers would be sworn in according to the existing administration structure if the government fails to secure funding for the restructuring plan before July 1. Ministers taking up the new posts - deputy chief secretary, deputy financial secretary and chiefs of the new culture and technology and communications bureaus - would start work five days after it was approved by Legco's Finance Committee.

Lam said this was a plan generated 'by both the current administration and the chief executive-elect office'.

According to another poll carried out by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Centre between Thursday to Monday, 54.3 per cent of 991 respondents supported the plan to create two new policy bureaus and appoint deputies to the chief secretary and financial secretary. A further 19.9 per cent disagreed.

The centre is a subsidiary of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute. Leung was former chairman of the institute's board of directors.