The secretary for home affairs yesterday vowed to go ahead with a controversial bid for the 2023 Asian Games despite a divided public, opposition from big political parties and fierce competition from overseas.
Tsang Tak-sing said he had analysed public opinion before making up his mind. 'During the consultation process, we heard that some [people] had reservations [but] quite a lot of opinions supported [a bid],' he said. 'Especially after the Guangzhou Asian Games, there was an obvious increase of voices in society that supported a bid.'
A government-commissioned survey conducted by Chinese University between mid-November and early this month showed public opinion was split. Of 1,848 respondents, 48.9 per cent opposed the proposed bid while 46.3 supported it.
Despite the result, Tsang said there was 'a very big consensus', that 'all people support long-term sports development in Hong Kong. We are completely determined to shoulder full responsibility to promote sports development in Hong Kong'.
But the government faces significant challenges to bring the Games to the city. It will have to secure majority support from 58 lawmakers on the Legislative Council's Finance Committee for funding approval. Despite a much-reduced budget, many lawmakers are still opposed to the HK$6 billion the government is seeking.
So far, only the Federation of Trade Unions and the group Economic Synergy, each with four votes, have pledged to back the bid. The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Democratic Party oppose the bid. They have, respectively, nine and eight votes.
DAB-chairman Tam Yiu-chung said the party stood firm against hosting the Games. 'We can see a split in public opinion, so we suggest the government be well prepared before bidding for the Games,' he said. 'There is no need to hurry.' But he did not comment directly if the party would change its stance in the future.
Democratic Party-lawmaker Kam Nai-wai said the party was disappointed with Tsang's announcement. 'I want to criticise the government for deliberately misinterpreting public opinion,' he said.
Malina Ngai Man-ling, chairwoman of the Elite Athlete Association, called for support for the government. 'It is not about us, the athletes. It is about the community. By hosting the Games, we can strengthen the sports culture in the city.'
An official familiar with the matter admitted the administration was fighting an uphill battle. 'The DAB has voiced its opposition several times,' the official said. 'It has limited room to change its stance.'
The Executive Council is understood to have supported the bid unanimously yesterday.