Hong Kong officials have seen gains in popularity since Chief Executive Carrie Lam took office, according to a regular university survey.

The latest poll by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme showed that Lam’s ratings had risen from 52.2 in mid-June to 63.7 in early July.

The top three secretaries, who all kept their jobs since the last administration, also saw popularity gains. The ratings for Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung rose from 49.3 in early June to 57.6 in early July; Financial Secretary Paul Chan’s ratings rose from 34.1 to 40.5; Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen saw gains from 46.6 to 52.8.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam and officials. Photo: Carrie Lam, via Facebook.

The programme interviewed 832 people by phone between July 3 and 6.

For other secretaries, the survey asked interviewees to state whether they would support or oppose them as officials. A net figure is calculated by deducting the “oppose” figure from the “support” figure. The net approval rating ranges from 100 per cent to negative 100 per cent.

All three secretaries who remained on from the last administration saw increases in their net approval rating. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing’s rating rose eight per cent to 28 per cent. The net rating for Secretary for Innovation and Technology Nicholas Yang rose 14 per cent – from negative five per cent to positive nine per cent.

The rating for Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah also rose by 15 per cent, but his net approval rating remained in the negative, at negative ten per cent.

The new Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong received the highest net rating of 44 per cent.

Law Chi-kwong Carrie Lam
Law Chi-kwong and Carrie Lam. File Photo: GovHK.

Three officials have lower ratings than their predecessors. They include new Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury James Lau, and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip.

The new Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung received the largest increase in ratings compared to his predecessor Eddie Ng. His net approval rating stands at 21 per cent – 72 per cent higher than Ng’s in June.

‘More humble’

The programme said it noticed that Hongkongers had been discussing Carrie Lam’s new cabinet, as well as her education and land-related policies, plus measures to reopen the Civic Square forecourt at government headquarters.

Chinese University of Hong Kong political scientist Ivan Choy told Ming Pao that the Carrie Lam administration “intentionally distanced itself from the Leung Chun-ying administration” to stop political disputes. The new government issued new resources for education and was more humble towards the pro-democracy camp, Choy said. The approach may have made the public express good feelings towards Lam and her cabinet.

Carrie Lam rail xl link
Photo: Carrie Lam, via Facebook.

Choy added that political issues cannot be shelved in the long run, and the controversial joint checkpoint arrangement for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link is expected to be announced soon. Thus, the government’s ratings may change depending on whether it can keep its current style of communication with the public. But Choy said he expected that any downturn in popularity could be buffered if the government achieves results on livelihood issues.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.