Carrie Lam cleans up after Leung Chun-ying does most of the dirty work 

Hong Kong chief executive owes her jump in popularity to the hardline policy and prosecutions of her predecessor taking effect on opposition parties   

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 2:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 2:45am

It is perhaps a bad sign that so many opposition figures ended up fighting the government last week over two old – and unhealthy – trees that were subsequently felled.

The incident, trivial as it is, serves as a reminder that the whole camp is in disarray and imploding. Radical localist youth groups are collapsing through a combination of lack of direction and prosecution by the government.

University student unions, long seen at the forefront of political movements, have lost credibility, thanks to the irresponsibility and immaturity of their leaders.

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Recent lacklustre turnouts at the unions’ annual elections and the dearth of candidates entering the races show the extent students are abandoning the unions.

Meanwhile, localist group Demosisto has thrown in the towel by announcing it will stop putting candidates up for public election because of the political climate.

Mainstream opposition parties are not doing much better. The Democratic Party has joined the government in condemning one of its own, lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, for grabbing a mobile phone from a government worker outside the Legislative Council chamber, admittedly a stupid but minor offence blown out of all proportion.

The Civic Party flew to Washington this month to complain about China, at a time when Donald Trump’s America is losing credibility with its enemies and Western allies alike.

Poor leadership, which often amounts to being ludicrous, within the opposition is largely to blame. But the hardline policy pursued by former chief executive Leung Chun-ying is also having an effect.

A third of opposition lawmakers have either been prosecuted or faced legal proceedings brought on by the government. Dozens of activists from the Occupy protests and Mong Kok riot have been prosecuted, and some jailed.

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British human rights activist Benedict Rogers has called the government’s tactics “lawfare”.

Leung had no doubt learned from the hardline tactics of President Xi Jinping while his justice secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung had taken a leaf from late Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew. All those trials and jailing have taken a heavy toll on the opposition, especially its most radical fringe.

Meanwhile, the city’s leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, is in a sweet spot. A University of Hong Kong survey from last week found her popularity rating had jumped by 3.9 points to 57.8 compared to two weeks before. Lam has her predecessor to thank for doing most of the dirty work.