Public sentiment ticks up, impact of bookseller’s revelations uncertain

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Although public sentiment appears to have improved slightly, the impact of bookseller Lim Wing-kee’s revelations may cause another reversal in the coming weeks.

As Hong Kong heads into the legislative election season, public sentiment has improved somewhat but is still hovering near its historic low, says the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme (HKUPOP).

“After a 4.7-point drop to 54.7 in late May, Hong Kong’s Public Sentiment Index (PSI) slightly recovered 2.7 points to 57.4 in early June. However, it can still be considered as among the worst 1% across the past two decades or so,” observed HKUPOP Research Manager Winnie Lee Wing-yee (李頴兒).

Lee attributed the rise to increases in the Government Appraisal and Society Appraisal components of the index, both of which are also hovering near historic lows. Of note, the rating of the chief executive rose by two points. His net approval rate rose by 4%.

The latest reading is also 4.6 points up from early January, a period corresponding to the outbreak of controversy over Causeway Bay bookseller Lee Po’s (李波) disappearance. As the cutoff date of the latest PSI survey was 12 June, the data does not include the revelations of Causeway Bay bookseller Lim Wing-kee (林榮基), who announced yesterday that Chinese authorities had forced him and his colleagues to confess on state TV in February.

Commenting to the media yesterday evening, a government spokesperson said that the police would reach out to Lam and take appropriate follow-up action. How the administration handles the crisis may have an effect on future index ratings just as the territory turns its eyes to the legislative ballot box.

Which way will public sentiment drift next?