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Tung main victim of SARS outbreak

Michael Ng

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa has become the main

victim of the fallout surrounding the Severe Acute Respiratory

Syndrome (SARS) outbreak with his popularity falling to its lowest

level since he took office.

However, Financial Secretary Antony Leung has become the most

unpopular of all senior government officials despite efforts to sweep

his alleged conflict-of-interest scandal under the official carpet.

According to a Hong Kong University public opinion programme poll

conducted between April 4-9, Tung had 41.3 points, a significant drop

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of 2.6 from a poll in mid-March.

Robert Chung, director of the programme, said Tung's score could well

be a reaction to his handling of the SARS outbreak.

"Tung's record-low popularity rating may well have reflected people's

dissatisfaction with his way of handling atypical pneumonia, because

his rating only began to drop again in late March," he said.

Tung's all-time highest rating was 67 which he scored in September

1997, two months after becoming Chief Executive.

However, the poll noted only a slight fall in ratings of other senior

officials responsible for handling the SARS outbreak.

The popularity of Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh

Eng-kiong, for instance, dipped merely 1.2 points while that of

Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li hardly moved.

Leung's popularity, however, plunged 4.5 to 40.4, an all-time low

among the 12 "cabinet" members.

Chung said Leung's slump was mainly due to his purchase of a car

before announcing tax rises in the budget and was not influenced by

the viral pneumonia outbreak.

"There is little doubt that the plunge in Leung's rating was entirely

due to his car purchase," Chung said.

"Having lost 9.4 points since he announced the budget in early March,

Leung has become the most unpopular principal official under the

accountability system."

The rating for Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang was

58.6 points, a slight drop of 1.5 points.

But that of Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung rebounded by four points

to 47.

It was the first time for the justice chief to have accumulated more

points than Antony Leung.

Secretary for Security Regina Ip also enjoyed an upswing, with her

rating climbing 4.2 to 53.2.

"The two officials have probably benefited from the cooling down of

the Basic Law Article 23 issue," Chung said.

According to the poll, which interviewed 1,066 people, the most

popular member of Tung's "cabinet" was Secretary for the

Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao with 61.5 points, a drop

of just 0.3.

Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Henry Tang was second

with 55 points.

Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Stephen Ip was next with

54.8 points.

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END


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