Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has expressed regret over remarks he made last week that suggested an open ballot for Hong Kong's next leader could not be allowed because it would lead to policies favouring the poor. Leung had also said the religious and sports sectors did not contribute to the economy. He said yesterday - in his second clarification of the comments in less than 12 hours - that he had been trying to discuss the concepts of balanced participation and broad representation, both embraced by the Basic Law. "What I meant was that we had to pay attention to every sector," he said. "This means we should not lean towards any sector or class because of its size or contribution to the economy." The comments about containing populist pressures were made in an interview with foreign media last week, as Leung explained why it was not possible for the public to nominate candidates for chief executive. If that was allowed, the largest sector - those with monthly pay of less than HK$14,000 - would dominate the process, he said. "If it's entirely a numbers game and numeric representation, then obviously you'd be talking to half of the people in Hong Kong who earn less than US$1,800 a month," Leung said. "Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies." His words were published by the Financial Times , The Wall Street Journal and International New York Times . Then on Saturday, Leung said that having representatives of "some sectors which do not contribute to the economy, such as religion or sport", on the nominating committee for candidates showed that the system embodied "balanced representation". He was speaking at Chek Lap Kok airport to welcome Hong Kong athletes returning from the Asian Para Games in Incheon, South Korea. Late on Monday night, his office issued a statement saying he had all along placed great importance on sports development and contributions, including those made by physically disabled athletes, relevant associations and staff members. It said his government would continue to promote sports and cultivate elite athletes. Leung clarified his remarks again yesterday: "I understand I should have made myself clearer on some points. Please excuse my comments for having caused misunderstanding … among the grass roots, the religious sector and the sports sector." Asian and Olympic medal-winning cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze shot back on her Facebook page, saying that both sectors did contribute to the society and urging Leung to brush up on history. "Both play important roles and influence a society's development. They are not just about contribution to the economy," the world champion wrote. Two polls conducted last week, less than a month after Occupy Central began, showed Leung's popularity had sunk to new depths since he became chief executive in July 2012. His support rate dropped to 38.9 marks out of 100 between October 20 and 23, down 1.7 marks from the previous poll, from October 6 to 9, the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme found. Of the 1,018 people polled, 51 per cent expressed dissatisfaction, and 27 per cent satisfaction, with Leung's government. Eighteen per cent claimed to have joined the Occupy protests. The average rating those people gave Leung was 13.4. Young people aged between 18 and 29 gave Leung on average 22.8 marks, the lowest score from among three age groups polled by HKU. Within this group, 87 per cent said they did not want him to be the city's leader. The other survey, conducted by Chinese University, showed Leung's rating falling to 38.6 out of 100. His score was 53.6 when he was elected in March 2012.