Chief executive’s popularity slips yet again in new poll

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks to the press on Tuesday morning. Screengrab via RTHK livestream.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks to the press on Tuesday morning. Screengrab via RTHK livestream.

The approval rating of embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam continued its steady downward march this week, dropping one point to 20 percent in a new survey as public anger over the government’s handling of an ongoing political crisis continues to surge.

According to a poll conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute during the first week of August, the percentage of more than 1,000 respondents who disapproved of Lam outright had risen to 72 percent.

After some 10 weeks of increasingly violent protests, and increasingly heavy-handed police responses, public dissatisfaction with the government is indisputably reaching “crisis” levels, said Robert Chung, president and CEO of HKPORI, which was spun off from the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Program this year.

“Beyond doubt — no government officials have come out to refute this [as they have before] — we are in a governance crisis,” Chung said.

“The government is not doing enough to save themselves,” he added, saying that the government’s approach so far has been “more confrontational than pacifying.”

In recent weeks, the government has refused to budge on protesters’ demands, including calls for Lam’s resignation, with Chung hypothesizing that Beijing is “afraid that if Carrie Lam steps down at a time of unpopularity, it will set a dangerous precedent for future leaders.”

Lam has largely withdrawn from the public eye as the protest movement rolls on, but in her public remarks she has maintained that the responsibility for the unrest and escalating violence lay with the protesters, while also refusing to engage with their demands or offer a solution to the crisis.

That strategy, however, is showing signs of wear. At a press conference today, Lam was hounded by members of the media for her pro forma responses. One reporter from Reuters repeatedly pressed her to say whether she had “the autonomy or not to withdraw the extradition bill,” a question that Lam evaded.

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