HONG KONG—The more Hong Kong’s beleaguered top official speaks, the more trouble he gets into. Last week, chief executive CY Leung suggested that the kind of elections protesters are demanding would give poor voters too much power. Then three days ago, he managed to offend Hong Kong’s religious community and professional athletes by saying that those sectors “do not contribute to the economy”—evidence that their inclusion in the city’s nominating committee is proof of the election body’s broad representation of society.
Now Leung is attempting to backtrack from those comments. “I understand I should have made myself clearer on some points,” Leung told reporters today. “I feel sorry about having caused misunderstanding and concerns among grass-roots people, the religious sector and the sports sector.” He added, “What I meant was that we have to pay attention to every sector. This means we should not lean towards any sector or class because of its size or its contribution to the economy.”
Not everyone was impressed. Arthur Lo, a protester who has been translating the protests for international audiences, said the wording Leung used doesn’t amount to an apology. In his comments today, Leung said 唔好意思, m’ hou jisi, which is more often used to say “excuse me” instead of the more formal, 道歉 douhip, or “apologies.” “Leung’s statement should not be taken as an apology. He did not apologize for the content of his past remarks and instead frames [them] as a misunderstanding by the media and the public. It is an insincere attempt to rescue his image,” Lo said.
Leung’s image has indeed suffered since pro-democracy protests broke out a month ago over new election reforms that will mean voters can only vote for candidates that are essentially vetted by Beijing. Leung’s public approval ratings have reached their lowest point since he became chief executive in 2012—he scored 38.6 out of 100 in terms of performance, according to a poll conducted last week by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. And according to survey results released today by Hong Kong University, Leung’s approval rating has fallen to 38.9 points out of 100, from 46.1 at the end of July, a drop of almost 16%.