THE Governor, Chris Patten, deserves praise for taking the initiative in publicly insisting on urgent action to curb rising property prices. As the poll we publish today shows, Mr Patten has used his instinctive politician's knack to read the public mood correctly. The results demonstrate just how serious the problem now is. Half of those surveyed said soaring prices made it more difficult torealise the common aspiration of most Hong Kong people - to buy a home of their own. If the Government is to be faulted, the majority of those questioned said the administration should have acted sooner. Any solution will pose problems of its own, but the public's preference is clear. According to our poll, an overwhelming majority want to see action against speculators, even including the capital gains tax that the United Democrats have long been demanding, and which the Government has, until now, opposed. The Financial Secretary, Sir Hamish Macleod, has already s ignalled a softening of official opposition to such a levy, saying last week that the administration would consider introducing one if other measures failed. The results of our poll will increase pressure for a move in this direction by showing that the Government now has a mandate to do whatever is necessary to halt speculation. Of course, the problem remains of how to find a mechanism that distinguishes between speculators who are artificially inflating the market and those genuinely seeking a home of their own. Perhaps the solution should be a capital gains tax that only applies to those who re-sell flats within one year of its original purchase. Certainly, that is an option which should be considered. But the biggest problem Mr Patten now faces is that, having seized the initiative and raised expectations, he has to deliver the goods and ensure his officials come up with a package of measures which have some effect. That will mean confronting the dilemma of how to balance the interests of the public against those of the property developers. But, above all, it will mean not being distracted by any of the difficulties that are likely to arise and ensuring that the issue is not allowed to slip on to the back-burner in the months to come.