Tung Chee-hwa's approval rating improved sharply after he acknowledged the shortcomings of his administration, according to two surveys. A University of Hong Kong public opinion study of 1,000 respondents carried out last week gave the Chief Executive his first 'pass mark' since August. Based on a 100-point system, Mr Tung was given a support rating of 53.3 points, compared to 49.6 last month. His rating dropped to 49.3 points in October after he announced a modest $15 billion rescue package that critics said fell well short of relief measures needed during the economic downturn. The Government's showing also improved markedly, according to the survey. The dissatisfaction rate with its performance fell from 48 per cent last month to 40 per cent. Another survey of 800 respondents by the Hong Kong Policy Research Institute, chaired by Mr Tung's special adviser, Paul Yip Kwok-wah, found the confidence index on the Chief Executive's performance improved in December. It rose from 79.3 per cent last month to 89.9 per cent this month. However, it is down by 5.4 percentage points compared to a year ago. Approval of the Government's performance also rose from 70.4 per cent to 77.9 per cent over the same period, but it has dropped 13.1 percentage points over the past year. Political analyst Professor Lau Siu-kai, of Chinese University, said Mr Tung's ratings had improved because he had admitted his past mistakes. Public support from state leaders when he paid a visit to Beijing last week had also helped his cause. 'The central Government's support has become Mr Tung's political asset because Hong Kong people believe that the trust they place in him will help Hong Kong's future development, ' Professor Lau said. President Jiang Zemin said last week Mr Tung's performance had been 'good on the whole', while Vice-Premier Qian Qichen said Mr Tung would win the March 24 poll with 'flying colours'. The university poll also found that in general 24.4 per cent of respondents felt 'unhappy', up from 19 per cent last year and close to the figure of 26.8 per cent recorded in 1998 after the Asian financial crisis. A further 39.3 per cent felt happy, a drop from 44.8 per cent last year. A total of 57.6 per cent of those surveyed were dissatisfied with Hong Kong's development this year, compared to 34.3 per cent 12 months ago. The number of respondents who believed that Hong Kong's situation would worsen next year rocketed to 36.3 per cent compared to 11 per cent last year. The figure in 1998 was 34.6 per cent. More than 70 per cent of those surveyed thought the economy was the most important problem the Government should tackle next year.