Public satisfaction in the Hong Kong government has reached its highest level since November 2017, a pollster has found.

The popularity of Chief Executive John Lee and satisfaction in his administration registered new highs in January, with the Hong Kong leader scoring 57.0 marks, according to the results of a random telephone survey conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI).

Chief Executive John Lee meeting the press on January 10, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The score released on Tuesday “increased significantly” compared to 52.4 marks recorded in December, the pollster said. It also marked a new personal high for Lee since September 2018, when he led the Security Bureau under Carrie Lam’s administration.

Among the 1,000 adult Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong residents surveyed between January 9 and 18, 10 per cent gave Lee, who took office last July after running unopposed for the role, zero marks. His approval rate among respondents stood at 50 per cent, whereas the disapproval rating was 37 per cent. The city’s leader earned a net popularity of 13 percentage points, the highest since August 2018.

PORI also interviewed 505 respondents who gave the Hong Kong government a satisfaction rate of 46 per cent, while the dissatisfaction rate was 34 per cent. It resulted in a net satisfaction of positive 12 percentage points, the highest since November 2017.

Last August, PORI released its first popularity survey of Lee around a month after the ex-security minister took up the reins as the leader of Hong Kong. He scored 53.8 marks at the time, with 12 per cent of respondents giving him a zero. It tied him with former chief executive Leung Chun-ying as the least popular leader immediately after assuming office.

Robert Chung, president and chief executive officer of PORI, told HKFP on Wednesday that the research team did not ask respondents to give reasons for their appraisal of the chief executive’s performance. But adjustments made to local anti-epidemic measures since PORI’s previous survey conducted in early December “must have a big impact” on people’s perception of Lee and his administration, the veteran pollster said.

Hong Kong has scrapped most of its Covid curbs since early December, including the public gathering limit, the requirement for people to provide vaccination proof before entering restaurants, bars and other venues, as well as the compulsory nucleic acid testing for arrivals.

The city also resumed quarantine-free travel with mainland China, although passenger clearance services at some control points locations such as Hung Hom, Lo Wu and Sha Tau Kok remain suspended.

People are still required to wear a mask in public, however, with Lee saying that the mandate will stay at least until after the winter flue season.

Correction 2.2.2023: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the rating of 57 marks was the highest rating for a chief executive since September 2018. The score marked Lee’s personal high since September 2018, when he was the city’s security minister.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.