Public is split 50-50 on Asian Games bid
Public opinion is now split 50-50 on whether Hong Kong should bid to host the Asian Games in 2023.
The Home Affairs Bureau said yesterday opposition has eased to a point where objectors and supporters are almost neck-and-neck.
Commenting on the 10-week consultation exercise that ended last Wednesday, the bureau said people have been 'more receptive' to the arguments for staging the event. But two major pro-government parties, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Liberal Party, are not convinced.
The government's latest poll shows there are 3 per cent more opponents than supporters.
But the Home Affairs Bureau says that when support from written submissions and online channels is taken into account, there is a 50-50 split. 'Public sentiment towards hosting the Games has become more positive following the success of the Guangzhou Asian Games,' a report to be tabled at Friday's Legco home affairs panel states.
In a last-ditch attempt to win Legco support for an eventual funding request to host the Games, the government cut the budget from HK$14.5 billion to HK$6 billion as the consultation period was closing.
The bureau acknowledged the weight of objections during the first few weeks of the consultation exercise, which was due to the high cost of the Games and lack of a clear long-term policy to promote sport.
But it said those concerns had been eased by 'a detailed explanation of the potential cost of hosting the Games and of our policy framework for sports development'.
It said it had shown 'there was no conflict between allocating resources for sports development and for other policy programmes such as health care and education'.
In two polls on the subject, the support rate in the second poll climbed 3.9 per cent to 48.2 per cent, while opposition fell 3.6 per cent to 47 per cent.
Overall, those in favour of bidding for the Games stood at 46.3 per cent, with 48.9 per cent against.
But the gap was negligible when a margin for sampling error of 2.28 per cent was factored in. Opposition to a bid from the Liberal Party remained firm despite Undersecretary for Home Affairs Florence Hui Hui-fai's lobbying.
Chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee said the party's stance was not changed by two hours of exchanges.
DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung said the polls reflected the divergence of public opinion.
He said: 'The government should not rush for the 2023 Games. Allowing more time to prepare and forge consensus will do a better job.' Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said the bid should be put aside if public opinion was split equally. 'The government has to be very careful if it goes on with the bid,' she said.
'A large proportion of the population will be mobilised if we are to host the Asian Games.'
But the Federation of Trade Unions eased its opposition and said it would make a final decision after its parliamentary meeting in a few days.