C.Y. Leung's popularity in the red
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's popularity plunged to a new low in the latest poll as Beijing-loyalist politicians questioned whether national education should be introduced in schools from next month.
The government says the subject will engender national pride but critics fear it will be used for 'brainwashing'.
A survey by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme found Leung's approval rating dropped to 41 per cent. The survey stated a maximum sampling error of percentage figures of plus or minus 4 percentage points at 95 per cent confidence.
Given his disapproval rating is 45 per cent, his net popularity rating fell to minus 4 percentage points. It was Leung's first negative rating since he won the top job in March.
One political observer believes the national-education row is affecting Leung's ability to govern. But a former member of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, Tsang Hin-chi, continued to back the government on the issue.
Tsang said national education the government was not forcing schools to implement the curriculum. '[The curriculum] is just for reference, just like [reference] books,' he said.
He also questioned the wisdom of parents who took their children to the streets to protest against the national education policy on Sunday. 'I was very worried to see parents bringing their kids,' he said. 'What if an emergency happened?'
However, Lew Mon-hung, a Leung ally and a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, called for postponing national education classes.
He said the government must learn from the attempt in 2003 to pass national-security legislation to implement Article 23 of the Basic Law, which was withdrawn after 500,000 people took the streets to oppose it.
'Without appropriate teaching materials, it will be too rushed to introduce national education next month,' Lew said. He said the government had mishandled the controversy and damaged its authority.
According to the HKU survey, for which 1,108 people were interviewed from July 17 to 20, Leung's support rating dropped to 51.2 points. That was 2.6 points lower than early in July and a record low since the survey started in March.
The public's dissatisfaction with the administration as a whole dropped 10 percentage points, to 42 per cent, while the satisfaction rate increased to 25 per cent, five percentage points better than in late June.
Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, director of the programme, said the findings showed 'the overall sentiment of Hong Kong people has improved [from June to July], but is still on the negative side'.
Dr Dixon Sing Ming, a political scientist at the University of Science and Technology, said he thought Leung's popularity might have fallen further. 'The survey was conducted in mid-July, when national education was a smaller issue,' he said.
Number of people who marched from Victoria Park to Admiralty on Sunday, police said •Organisers put the figure at 90,000