Donald Tsang

Public trust dented by report on suffrage

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2007, 12:00am

Tsang's reform paper fails to reassure critics

Public trust in the central and Hong Kong governments has slumped to an eight-month low following the publication of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's constitutional reform report last week, according to the University of Hong Kong.

The sharp drop in confidence came as lawmakers called for an emergency debate in the Legislative Council today amid fears that the National People's Congress could rule out the introduction of universal suffrage by 2012 during a Standing Committee meeting next week.

The poll, conducted by the university's public opinion programme between December 11 and 14, found 49 per cent of the 1,011 respondents said they trusted Beijing.

The figure represented a 10 percentage point drop from the last survey, held in October. It was also lower than the figure recorded in June, when NPC chairman Wu Bangguo made a controversial statement about the limits of Hong Kong's autonomy.

Mr Wu said there was no question of the city being entitled to 'residual power' - the power to manoeuvre in areas not specifically granted by Beijing.

A more significant drop in the latest poll was public trust in the Hong Kong government. The poll found the latest level of trust was at 51 per cent, a drop of 12 percentage points from October. Public confidence in the city's future also dropped 4 percentage points to 79 per cent.

Pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu said Mr Tsang's submission of the reform report to Beijing last Wednesday was an important factor.

In the report, Mr Tsang said introducing universal suffrage by 2017 would stand a better chance of being accepted although the majority wanted 2012 - a date to which Beijing should give serious consideration.

Pan-democrats called yesterday for an emergency debate in the Legco meeting today to raise concerns before the NPC Standing Committee meeting starts on Sunday.

Democratic Party legislator Yeung Sum, who is to move the adjournment debate, said the plunge in public trust towards the government and Beijing showed the reform report did not truly reflect public demands for speedy democratisation.

'We hope to introduce universal suffrage in 2012, and short of that, at least Beijing should confirm we can have it in 2017,' Dr Yeung said. 'Any decision made by the NPC in a rush without listening adequately to views in Hong Kong will only further harm public confidence.'

In a letter sent to President Hu Jintao via Mr Tsang yesterday, 25 pan-democrat legislators urged the central government to meet them before making any decisions.

Separately, Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said her party would write to Mr Wu, warning that Mr Tsang's report would prompt a confidence crisis in Hong Kong. The party urged the Standing Committee to heed opinions in Hong Kong and allow electing the chief executive by universal suffrage in 2012.

Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu, a local NPC deputy who will attend the Standing Committee meeting with fellow deputies Kan Fook-yee and Philip Wong Yu-hong, said she believed Beijing considered the chief executive's report accurately reflected Hong Kong people's opinion.

But she declined to speculate whether the Standing Committee would rule out universal suffrage in 2012 and whether it would address election methods in 2017.

'The central government has the final say, but it will not ignore Hongkongers' views,' she said.