Sir Ti Liang rises in public opinion

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 October, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 October, 1996, 12:00am

Chief Justice Sir Ti Liang Yang has jumped dramatically into the lead among Hong Kong's people as their choice to become chief executive next year, according to an exclusive opinion poll for the Sunday Morning Post.

The survey by Asian Commercial Research showed support for Sir Ti Liang rising almost tenfold from August.

Questioned last Thursday and Friday, between 21.5 per cent and 45.7 per cent named him as their preferred candidate according to who else was included in the race. In a separate question, where people were asked if they would approve or disapprove of the appointment of five candidates, 73 per cent said they would approve of Sir Ti Liang.

Shipping magnate Tung Chee-hwa received between 14.7 and 24.4 per cent support. Fifty-six per cent said they would approve if he was chosen in the end.

Businessman Peter Woo Kwong-ching, who declared his candidacy last Monday, was the choice of between 7.9 and 9.5 per cent of the representative sample of 406 people, with a 37 per cent approval rating.

As in previous polls, Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang was well ahead of all others mentioned. But her support fell to 40 per cent from 60 per cent in August, apparently reflecting the perception that she will not stand.

Martin Lee Chu-ming was named as first choice by 4.8 per cent, down from 10 per cent in August, presumably for the same reason.

When Mrs Chan and Mr Lee were taken out of the poll, Sir Ti Liang's popularity hit 45.7 per cent, with Mr Tung second with 24.4 per cent and 9.5 per cent for Mr Woo.

The poll also found people had made up their minds to a much greater extent than in August. Only 7.5 per cent expressed no opinion compared to 13 per cent in the summer.

Professor Lau Siu-kai, a Preparatory Committee member said the results showed people had started to realise Anson Chan would not be a possible candidate.

'People are becoming more realistic but they still are hesitant about having a businessman ruling Hong Kong. This could explain why Sir Ti Liang is so popular.' Sir Ti Liang revealed last night he had already filled in the application form to renounce his British passport, in a bid to comply with the residency requirement for the chief executive.

The form will be sent to the British authorities in a few days.

Told of the findings, Sir Ti Liang said he was confident he had a better than 50 per cent chance of winning the race. But he said polls varied and 'I could be 80 or 20 per cent tomorrow. I will do my best within the limit of my capacity and try to win.' He said his advantage was his neutrality in business and politics, since he would not have preferences for any political and business group if he was selected.

Since the selection process was conducted by the 400-strong Selection Committee only, he hoped local media would report more on the candidates' background. 'It would not be useful if the candidate was not accepted by the general public.' Sir Ti Liang said he might join in some open debates. 'I am not the right man to engage in heated debate,' he added. 'But I am going to talk to and see people to explain my views. The kind of debate has to suit my character.' In the poll without Mrs Chan or Mr Lee, only 0.8 per cent supported solicitor Lo Tak-shing, with 0.2 per cent for the judge and former ombudsman, Arthur Garcia. Sixty-one per cent said they would disapprove if Mr Lo was selected, and 54.6 per cent said the same for Mr Garcia.

Report, tables, Page 2; Editorial, Page 10; Peter Woo profile, Page 11