John Tsang extends poll lead over Carrie Lam in Hong Kong leadership race

But two-thirds recognise the former chief secretary is more likely to win, while 63 per cent say a less popular chief executive will have problems governing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 March, 2017, 8:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 March, 2017, 10:16am

John Tsang Chun-wah has widened his lead over arch-rival Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to more than 17 percentage points in the latest survey commissioned by the South China Morning Post.

Some 63 per cent of the 1,009 respondents interviewed from last Wednesday to Monday believed a less popular chief executive would face problems in governing Hong Kong.

But about two-thirds recognised that Lam, the former chief secretary who is seen as Beijing’s preferred candidate, stood a higher chance of landing the top job in the March 26 election.

Polling in the third such survey by the Post began a week after the nomination period for the chief executive race closed on March 1.

Chinese University’s Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey found that 67 per cent of respondents regarded the housing affordability problem as the top priority for the city’s next leader, followed by 58.8 per cent who picked mending rifts in the community.

Carrie Lam in damage control after ‘quit’ pledge in Hong Kong leadership race debate

Tsang was backed by 46.6 per cent of respondents aged 18 or above, up from 42.5 per cent in the previous survey early last month. Some 29.5 per cent preferred Lam, up from 28.2 per cent.

The former financial secretary’s lead over Lam widened from 14.3 percentage points last month to 17.1 percentage points.

The third candidate, retired judge Woo Kwok-hing, was backed by 10.1 per cent, compared with 8.7 per cent last month.

About 63 per cent of respondents believed that the governance of the next chief executive would be affected if he or she trailed another candidate in terms of popularity, while 26.2 per cent disagreed.

Lam said during the chief executive election debate on Tuesday that she would resign if mainstream public opinion made her no longer able to continue in the job.

Think again, Beijing: Carrie Lam is the wrong person to lead Hong Kong out of the political storm

Elaborating on the circumstances in which she would consider quitting, Lam said on Wednesday that she would take into account mainstream opinion rather than fluctuating popularity ratings.

“Just in case, if there is one single issue where the mainstream view of the Hong Kong people is

contradictory to the faithful and truthful execution of the Basic Law, then the chief executive, in my view, should resign,” Lam said.

She admitted in January there would be questions over her governance if she was picked as chief executive by the 1,194-member Election Committee but trailed her rivals in terms of popularity.

Professor Francis Lee, the Chinese University academic who advises the pollsters, said the findings were a warning signal for Lam.

“Even if she wins, at the end of the day she will find herself lacking a popular mandate.”

Dr Chung Kim-wah, of Polytechnic University, said Lam’s team should work harder to jack up her popularity.

You can imagine the plight of Lam if she already has a low rating before she wins the election
Dr Chung Kim-wah, Polytechnic University

“Five years ago when Leung Chun-ying won the election, his popularity was high. Even so, his honeymoon was over before he took office on July 1, 2012,” Chung said. “You can imagine the plight of Lam if she already has a low rating before she wins the election.”

A spokesman for Tsang’s campaign office said he would continue to work hard to gain the support of Election Committee members and the public.

Tai Keen-man, a spokesman for Lam’s campaign office, declined to comment on the opinion poll results. “Our position has always been that we shall continue to work hard to win the support of the people.”

A spokesman for Woo’s campaign office could not be reached for comment.

The sampling error of the poll was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, at a 95 per cent confidence level.