• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 4:35am

Leung and his allies should realise the true extent of Hongkongers' anger

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am

Our first chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, provoked widespread public outrage during the seven years that he ruled Hong Kong. When public anger reached a boiling point in 2003, half a million people took to the streets calling for his resignation. Tung stepped down soon after that.

On his first day as chief executive, Leung Chun-ying attracted far greater public disapproval - by one estimate, 400,000 Hongkongers turned out for the annual protest march on July 1 and demanded that he resign. The people of Hong Kong have voiced their disapproval of Leung in a loud and clear manner.

The reasons are simple and straightforward. The exposure of illegal structures at his Peak home touches upon a sensitive issue of personal integrity. In the end, he couldn't evade liability any more or avoid facing the truth. It prompted the majority to also question his political credibility.

Some members of his team and the Executive Council have called on him to give a public account of the unauthorised works. If his own people couldn't come up with any excuses for him, how could he expect the people of Hong Kong to believe and support him in governing the city even for just a day?

Leung took the initiative to lead a team of senior officials to stage visits in a number of districts to better understand their needs on his second day in office. If he thought it would help boost his popularity and resolve the city's social problems, he was wrong.

Leung needs to face the reality and stop trying to avoid addressing the real issues such as the needs and wants of the people. The longer he drags on without tackling these problems head on, the more serious they will become. In the end, they will create an even bigger political crisis.

The self-described organiser of the annual rally is the Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of more than 40 civic and political groups. It put the number of protesters at 400,000 this year, but I believe the real figure could have surpassed the half a million recorded in 2003.

The organiser's estimate is challenged every year. This year, Robert Chung Ting-yiu, the director of the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, put the turnout at between 98,000 and 112,000, while Paul Yip Siu-fai, a professor at HKU's social work department, said between 70,000 and 90,000 people attended the rally.

Clearly, their estimates were far lower than that of the organiser's. In previous years, too, their figures were always well below the organiser's estimates, usually about half or one-third of that provided by the organiser. In other words, year after year their numbers never seemed to match the general perception of the size of the march. This is a big insult to the people who actually took part in the rally and had a rough idea of the situation and scale on the ground.

The estimates were illogical. Some 40,000 people were said to have attended the anniversary event held at Hong Kong Stadium, and the streets around Causeway Bay were not congested. As for the candle-light vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 180,000 turned up and the areas around the park weren't that seriously congested. But on July 1, the streets and areas around Victoria Park were solidly packed with people. Some people had to wait for several hours before they could join the crowd inside the park. One can imagine the size of the crowd that day.

The bone of contention was that a person would only be counted as a marcher if he or she completed the entire march. It's reasonable to assume that most people did not cover the entire route and left half-way or at some point during the march. There were some who joined mid-way. Not to forget others who were cheering along the route, holding banners and placards, but did not march alongside. So, if they did not march from start to end, they wouldn't be counted as part of the July 1 crowd?

Yip, who's also a part-time member of the government's Central Policy Unit, serves the rich and powerful. Come to think of it, he assigned only nine of his students to assess the size of the crowd on that day. What a joke! He is not only throwing away his personal reputation but also that of the university.

Chung, who is a reputable local pollster, seems to have given himself up to the rich and powerful. Because he is widely respected, his words will cause more damage than he could imagine: many pro-Leung politicians and media have already used his estimates to reinforce their political points.

Furthermore, when Chung and his students appeared on my radio show earlier this week, he revealed that he came up with the estimates by counting only marchers who passed the Arsenal Street and Hennessy Road junction. Moreover, he also admitted using benchmark data from last year, which assumed 35per cent of the marchers left the procession before reaching that junction, to help determine this year's estimate. How ridiculous! What kind of researchers would carry out research using old data?

The people of Hong Kong can surely recognise those leaders who do not have personal and political integrity. These people have nowhere to hide no matter how shrewd they are. The people will not be fooled nor will they be gagged. The power of the people will only grow by the day.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk

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