Hong Kong | Carrie Lam sees popularity plunge after historic protests

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam saw her approval rating plunge 9 percentage points in a month, as her bid to ease extraditions to China prompted hundreds of thousands of protesters to take to the streets.

The Beijing-backed chief executive saw her approval rating fall to a record low of 23% and her disapproval rise to 67%, according to a survey released yesterday by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Programme. Support for the former British colony’s government fell to 18% – the lowest since 2003 – according to the poll of 1,015 residents conducted between June 17 and 20.

“The rallies, protests and related controversies as a result of the amendments of the extradition bill appear to have affected public opinion to a fairly large extent,” the polling institute said. “The younger and the more educated the respondents, the more critical they are of Carrie Lam.”

The dismal poll performance will boost protesters’ efforts to force Lam out over the bill, which would have for the first time allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China. While Lam suspended efforts to pass the legislation after clashes between demonstrators and police on June 12, rallies calling for its withdrawal and her resignation have continued.

The plunge means that Lam is poised to begin her third year in office next week more unpopular than any of her three predecessors at this point in their terms. By one measure, she performs almost as poorly as former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa did after similar mass protests in 2003 – unrest that contributed to his decision to resign more than a year later.

HKU put her support rating – an average of the ratings given to her by all respondents, on a scale of one to 100 – at 32.8 points, down from 63.6 points during her first week in office. That’s as low as either Tung or her immediate predecessor, Leung Chun-ying, at the depths of their unpopularity.

Lam has failed to heal divisions after taking over from Leung, who was forced to forego seeking a second term due to widespread discontent. While she may have underestimated the opposition to her extradition bill, her task was complicated by the requirement to serve two masters – Hong Kong and Beijing – without a public vote to provide a mandate.

The share of survey respondents who said they had trust in Lam fell to 28% – the lowest figure since HKU began collecting the data in 1992. Natalie Lung & Stephen Tan, Bloomberg

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