Leung Chun-ying's administration, already struggling with a combination of social and political conflicts, will face mounting tension with the public amid growing anti-mainland sentiment, the government's former top adviser says.
Professor Lau Siu-kai, former head of the Central Policy Unit, said Leung's governance problem had been worsened by a lack of public trust in his administration because of his close relationship with Beijing.
"A substantial number of Hong Kong people have suspicions about the government's intention," he said. "In the light of growing tension between Hong Kong people and the central government, many Hongkongers tend to question whether the Leung administration has the interests of Hong Kong as its top priority."
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Lau said it would be difficult to achieve any quick change in the public's perception.
Leung has been seen as a pro-Beijing heavyweight since he was appointed secretary-general of the Basic Law Consultative Committee in 1988.
Lau, who stepped down in June after a 10-year stint as chief of the government's think-tank, said Leung had pledged during his election campaign to improve people's livelihood but the government might lack resources to meet the growing demands on it.
"Leung emphasised the need to tackle the housing problem during his campaign, but property prices have kept rising since he took up office. Some people unavoidably put the blame on his administration," Lau said.
He said Leung was facing a tougher situation than his predecessors, Tung Chee-hwa and Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
"Even in the final days of Tung's tenure, the conflict between the Hong Kong community and the central government was not as serious as nowadays," Lau said.
Anxiety in the community and uncertainties brought by the global economic downturn would inevitably increase the tension between the government and the public, he said.
The "embattled government" was being tempted to come up with policy initiatives to meet public demand out of short-term political consideration, Lau said.
Lau, who is now an emeritus professor of sociology at the Chinese University, criticised the Leung administration for failing to stick to principles it once espoused and tended to back down in the face of opposition from members of the public.
"For instance, government officials failed to elaborate on the benefits of national education during the row over the subject," he said. "Instead, they emphasised only that the government had no intention of using the subject as a 'brainwashing tool'."