Almost 60 per cent of Hongkongers do not accept Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's explanations over the conflict-of-interest allegations against him, according to the latest University of Hong Kong poll.
About 43 per cent said that Tsang should be suspended from duty during the ongoing Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation on the issue.
Despite these strong feelings, fewer than one in 10 of the 523 respondents to the poll said Tsang should resign immediately, and the opinions were divided on whether the Legislative Council should start a mechanism to impeach the chief executive.
Pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu, director of HKU's public opinion programme, said the findings showed that the public still gave Tsang the benefit of the doubt, and wanted more facts before coming to a final judgment about him.
However, Dr Chung said, the public remained unconvinced by Tsang's justifications for accepting favours from his tycoon friends. The chief executive carried 'the burden to persuade' people about why he should stay in office during the investigation, he said.
The survey, commissioned by the South China Morning Post, was conducted from Friday through to Sunday, shortly after Tsang's pained apology in front of Legco last Thursday.
Tsang has been under immense pressure in the past few weeks after it was discovered he had accepted private jet and yacht excursions from tycoons and had rented a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen from a businessman, Bill Wong Cho-bau, who is also a major investor in Digital Broadcasting Corporation. Tsang subsequently gave up the lease on the penthouse.
Tsang faced a fresh blow yesterday as Ming Pao Daily reported that he had stayed in a luxury Macau casino resort suite, one normally reserved for high rollers, back in 2007.
Tsang has taken a series of steps recently to try to revive public confidence in him. He has accepted media interviews and appeared in Legco to apologise and answer questions. He also appointed a five-member independent panel, headed by former Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, to review the codes of conduct for top officials.
However, the majority of those polled still expressed dissatisfaction with his explanations and conduct. The most recent survey found that 58.5 per cent did not accept Tsang's explanations, while 35.3 per cent accepted his reasoning and 6.2 per cent were undecided.
In addition, 43 per cent of all respondents, and 72.7 per cent of those who said they were dissatisfied with Tsang's explanations, urged him to suspend his duties while an ICAC investigation was being conducted.
An attempt by pan-democratic politicians to force a full-scale investigation into the matter was voted down in the House Committee by pro-establishment Legco members last Friday. A few influential members of the pro-establishment camp, such as the chairwoman of the Liberal Party, Miriam Lau Kin-yee, and the former pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions Legco member Chan Yuen-han, also urged Tsang to step aside during the investigation.
Meanwhile, independent Legco member Paul Tse Wai-chun has been canvassing support from colleagues for his impeachment motion against Tsang. Tse said yesterday that five Legco members supported the bid so far. The impeachment procedure would require the support of at least 15 legislators to begin. However, the SCMP poll showed the public was split on such a bid, with 45 per cent opposed versus 44 per cent who supported the motion.
The survey had a response rate of 67.1 per cent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.