The secretary for education, Eddie Ng Hak-kim, has emerged as the new government's most unpopular minister, with almost half of those questioned in a new poll saying they had no confidence in him after little more than a month in office.
One analyst said Ng, the public face of the government's controversial plan to introduce national education in schools, was now a drag on the popularity of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's administration.
Some 48 per cent of the 527 respondents in the poll by the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme gave Ng a vote of no confidence, up from 20 per cent a month ago. Just 20 per cent expressed confidence in him, down from 33 per cent.
Another embattled minister, development chief Paul Chan Mo-po, was the second least popular, with 42 per cent giving him a vote of no confidence barely a fortnight into his term of office after it emerged that a company linked to his wife was letting out subdivided flats. Only 17 per cent had confidence in him.
Leung also saw his popularity slip, with the gap between people expressing no confidence in the chief executive, 47 per cent of the poll, and the number who expressed confidence, 39 per cent, doubling from July's poll to 8 percentage points.
Political analyst Dr James Sung Lap-kung of City University said that the low ratings could affect the government's attempts to implement policies in the coming months, bringing more resistance to controversial plans such as national education and the demolition of illegal structures at village houses.
Sung said the poor rating for Ng could mean he drags down the popularity of the government at a time when its allies in the Beijing loyalist camp are fighting next month's Legislative Council election.
"His [Ng's] political skills and familiarity with policies have not been up to standard," Sung said.
The decline in Ng's ratings has come against a backdrop of huge opposition to the introduction of national education, which the government says will help instil a sense of national pride in children but which critics deride as a brainwashing tool.
Opponents of the subject, which will be introduced in some primary schools next month, accuse Ng of blindly defending the policy without giving solid reasons.
There was better news for health chief Dr Ko Wing-man, who had the confidence of 69 per cent of voters. Just 5 per cent had no confidence in him. Labour and welfare chief Matthew Cheung Kin-chung was the second most highly rated minister.
Leung's predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, saw his popularity hit a record low in June, the last month of his administration, with a difference of 63 points between those who had no confidence in him and those who had confidence.