Hongkongers' discontent with the government has risen to a record high since the city's handover to Chinese rule in 1997, findings of a University of Hong Kong poll show.
The result apparently stem from public anger over the outgoing chief executive's acceptance of favours from tycoons and the use of taxpayers' funds on expensive hotel suites during official trips, which a former top official said was certain to pose a 'very big threat' to Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's successor.
The Hong Kong government was viewed with 'negative feelings' by 36 per cent of the 1,052 respondents surveyed between May 23 and May 30, up from 25 per cent last November and 27 per cent a year ago.
At the same time, 23 per cent said they had 'positive feelings' towards the government.
The results of the HKU poll, conducted twice a year, also showed that a post-handover record 32 per cent of Hongkongers held a negative view of the central government, up from 28 per cent in November. Negative perceptions of the Philippine government - at 83 per cent - were also at a record high in the May poll.
The successful escape of blind activist Chen Guangcheng from illegal detention in his home village in Shandong province, and the stand-off between Beijing and Manila over Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, which China calls Huangyan Island, were among significant news events during the period the poll was conducted.
Commentators attributed the rising disaffection with the government to the controversies dogging Tsang Yam-kuen, who leaves office at the end of this month.
'The scandals surrounding [Tsang] must have been the most important reason for the drop in the government's popularity rating,' said Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University.
He cited Tsang's stay in the presidential suite of a hotel in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, at a cost of US$6,900 a night, 23 times the daily overseas allowance for a civil servant.
Former secretary for the civil service Joseph Wong Wing-ping said the incoming chief executive, Leung Chun-ying was likely to inherit not just the top job, but also the low popularity of the post's occupant.
'A big reason for the low public support for this administration is the failure of the accountability system [of ministerial responsibility]' Wong said. 'But Leung is making an attempt to further expand it. This is ... a very big threat.'
The survey has tracked perception of the governments in Hong Kong, the mainland, Taiwan and Macau and overseas for the past 15 years.