Justice boss' popularity at record low after legal bias perceived

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 February, 2008, 12:00am

The popularity ratings of Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung have reached an all-time low, according to a University of Hong Kong poll, a continuation of a slide that began in December.

Mr Wong usually commands a healthy popularity rating but in December public confidence in the justice chief slid from 76 per cent to 67 per cent.

Results of the survey of 1,029 respondents by the public opinion programme also showed only 58 per cent of respondents polled this month gave a vote of confidence to Mr Wong. Support ratings for him also slid by 2.8 points to 62.2, an all-time low for him since he became secretary for justice.

The slide in December was largely attributed to an increasing perception of selective prosecution by the Department of Justice.

In late November, Mr Wong's department prosecuted 76-year-old retired legislator Szeto Wah, an icon of the pro-democracy movement who spoke out on the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown during an unlicensed broadcast by Citizens' Radio.

Less than a week later, magistrates' court proceedings revealed tycoon Peter Lam Kin-ngok had been originally accused of driving his Ferrari at up to 114km/h in a 50km/h zone, but prosecutors accepted a guilty plea to driving at 79 km/h, allowing Mr Lam to avoid disqualification for up to six months.

Last month, magistrate Douglas Yau Tak-hong ruled that sections of the Telecommunications Ordinance breached the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights. He dismissed charges against six Citizens' Radio activists charged with unlicensed broadcasting.

On Monday, the government won another suspension of this ruling.

Lingnan University political analyst Li Pang-kwong said: 'All I can think of is that the popularity slide is a continuation of the Citizens' Radio case and the Peter Lam effect.'

The controversy over unlicensed Citizens' Radio and the government's efforts to keep it off the air was having a continuing effect, he said.

However, the survey shows that Mr Wong still commands roughly the same popularity rating as Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, and is more popular than Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who garnered only a 35 per cent approval rating.