Tung’s popularity falling, poll finds


HONG KONG, Reuters

Anti-government sentiment adorns the election platforms of the contenders running for directly elected seats, although the legislature itself will have little power in monitoring Tung’s administration.

“The SAR government has proved to be very disappointing. Our chief executive has not stood up for Hong Kong’s autonomy or the rule of law,” says the election platform of the popular Democratic Party, led by lawyer Martin Lee.

The former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in July 1997 and is now a special administrative region (SAR) of China. Tung, 63, was appointed by a Beijing-picked caucus to lead the SAR and Chinese leaders have praised him for his work in the past three years.

Not so at home.

Tung’s popularity has sunk to an all time low, with public discontent over high unemployment and depressed property prices. He was also accused recently of trying to interfere with polls on his popularity. Tung has denied these accusations.

Other candidates also criticize Tung for giving too much attention to big business and too little to the territory’s poor. Even the usually pro-government Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong also hints at the failures of the administration.

“Criticizing Tung will enhance this image of being anti-establishment, being not afraid of challenging the establishment. And this is popular,” politics professor Joseph Cheng at the City University said.

“Many Hong Kong voters go to the polls because they believe that they want representatives who will criticize the government,” he said. Sharp tongued, but toothless While the candidates use sharp-tongued tactics in their campaigns, the legislature has limited power to monitor the Tung government.

“The electoral system is designed in such a way that there would be a safe majority to support the administration,” Cheng noted.

Of the 60-strong chamber, only 24 seats will be returned by universal suffrage on Sunday. Thirty seats will be returned from “functional constituencies”, mostly professional and business groups, which often take a pro-government stance.

The remaining six members will be picked by an 800-member election committee, made up mostly of pro-China businessmen, professionals and grassroot figures.

In addition, the legislature will be constrained by a “split-vote” system where the passage of laws will need majority votes in both the functional constituency category and the rest of the chamber. This makes it harder to pass a resolution than in the case of simple vote counting.

There are also restrictions on the bills legislators can propose, and the chamber’s chairman can veto any bill. Tung to run for second term?

“Because of this limited monitoring power, some people feel they should therefore carry out their civic duties. As they are dissatisfied with the government, they think they should come out and cast their votes,” said political commentator Lau Yui-siu.

He said the richer variety of candidates’ running for directly elected seats this year would also encourage voting.

But Tung’s unpopularity is unlikely to impede his campaign for a second term as chief executive in 2002, if he decides to run.

The next chief executive will be elected by a selection committee, and it is up to the government to decide how the committee is chosen.

“The chief executive might be someone trusted by Beijing and acceptable to this committee,” Cheng said. rt

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Tung’s popularity falling; poll

By Carrie Lee HONG KONG, Reuters

Candidates in Sunday’s legislative poll in Hong Kong are capitalizing on the falling popularity of leader Tung Chee-hwa and his government, using his lack of appeal to boost their own.

Anti-government sentiment adorns the election platforms of the contenders running for directly elected seats, although the legislature itself will have little power in monitoring Tung’s administration.

“The SAR government has proved to be very disappointing. Our chief executive has not stood up for Hong Kong’s autonomy or the rule of law,” says the election platform of the popular Democratic Party, led by lawyer Martin Lee.

The former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in July 1997 and is now a special administrative region (SAR) of China. Tung, 63, was appointed by a Beijing-picked caucus to lead the SAR and Chinese leaders have praised him for his work in the past three years.

Not so at home.

Tung’s popularity has sunk to an all time low, with public discontent over high unemployment and depressed property prices. He was also accused recently of trying to interfere with polls on his popularity. Tung has denied these accusations.

Other candidates also criticize Tung for giving too much attention to big business and too little to the territory’s poor. Even the usually pro-government Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong also hints at the failures of the administration.

“Criticizing Tung will enhance this image of being anti-establishment, being not afraid of challenging the establishment. And this is popular,” politics professor Joseph Cheng at the City University said.

“Many Hong Kong voters go to the polls because they believe that they want representatives who will criticize the government,” he said.

SHARP TONGUED, BUT TOOTHLESS

While the candidates use sharp-tongued tactics in their campaigns, the legislature has limited power to monitor the Tung government.

“The electoral system is designed in such a way that there would be a safe majority to support the administration,” Cheng noted.

Of the 60-strong chamber, only 24 seats will be returned by universal suffrage on Sunday. Thirty seats will be returned from “functional constituencies”, mostly professional and business groups, which often take a pro-government stance.

The remaining six members will be picked by an 800-member election committee, made up mostly of pro-China businessmen, professionals and grassroot figures.

In addition, the legislature will be constrained by a “split-vote” system where the passage of laws will need majority votes in both the functional constituency category and the rest of the chamber. This makes it harder to pass a resolution than in the case of simple vote counting.

There are also restrictions on the bills legislators can propose, and the chamber’s chairman can veto any bill.

TUNG TO RUN FOR SECOND TERM?

“Because of this limited monitoring power, some people feel they should therefore carry out their civic duties. As they are dissatisfied with the government, they think they should come out and cast their votes,” said political commentator Lau Yui-siu.

He said the richer variety of candidates’ running for directly elected seats this year would also encourage voting.

But Tung’s unpopularity is unlikely to impede his campaign for a second term as chief executive in 2002, if he decides to run.

The next chief