Leung Chun-ying

Leung Chun-ying planning a new round of public forums

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2012, 4:39am

In his first weeks as chief executive, Leung Chun-ying was anxious to build up his public image as a listener by visiting various districts. He carried the same props - a folding chair, notebook and a pen - he used in his election campaign.

To mark his 100th day as chief executive today, Leung said he and his principal officials were planning a new round of public forums. This despite the chaos that ensued when the first such forums were held in July.

"These visits are very useful in helping us to formulate policies, as we can take the pulse of the public," he said.

Critics say Leung is anxious to boost his public support as political challenges loom in the Legislative Council, which is now more politically diverse, especially with more radicals.

But public opinion polls show that public forums have done little to boost Leung's popularity, which has slid since he took office.

Ma Ngok, a Chinese University political scientist, said Leung should treat his regular district meetings as a real opportunity to reach out to the public, instead of using them to gain publicity.

In the first month of his term, Leung and his cabinet visited 18 districts in a three-week blitz of meet-the-public sessions. At every meeting, protesters confronted Leung and his ministers, and the chaos forced some forums to be cut short, with the chief executive and his team leaving the venue by a back door under heavy police escort.

The public forums were suspended in mid-July to avoid further conflict.

Leung conducted recent tours of Tin Shui Wai and Sheung Shui to look into the problem of parallel traders - people who flout mainland taxes on goods by buying them in Hong Kong and smuggling them over the border.

The Chief Executive's Office described these as "unofficial" visits. And on both occasions, he was accompanied by a group of pro-establishment legislators and district councillors.

The Democratic Party's new legislator, Helena Wong Pik-wan of Kowloon West, accused Leung of ignoring pan-democrats and only entertaining his own allies.

"If he is choosing only to listen to the good words and intentionally ignoring our criticisms, I doubt how genuinely he will listen to the people of Hong Kong."

The latest poll from the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme showed Leung's public approval rating stood at 46 points out of 100 in late September, dropping from 53.8 points in July.