Hong Kong gives vote of confidence in Governor

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He may be running a lame-duck administration, and the Chinese government may regard him as the Whore of the East and a Triple Violator, but the people of Hong Kong like Chris Patten.

The last Governor of Hong Kong appears to be achieving a higher level of satisfaction than his successor, Tung Chee-hwa, who will head the first post-colonial government.

A public opinion survey released yesterday shows that 58 per cent of those questioned were "somewhat satisfied" with Mr Patten's performance, compared with 48 per cent who expressed a similar view about Mr Tung.

However, the Governor also appears to annoy more people than Mr Tung, as 26 per cent of those in the survey declared themselves to be "somewhat dissatisfied" with his performance, compared to only 19 per cent who held this opinion about his successor.

The survey results are surprising because Mr Tung appeared to be riding high in the polls following his appointment by Peking last year.

This poll of 546 people was taken last month, at a time when Mr Tung was under fire for supporting the watering down of human rights legislation which other polls found to be a cause for losing popular support.

The poll was conducted by the Hong Kong Transition Project, the most thorough opinion tracking survey of popular attitudes towards the transition from British to Chinese rule. Michael DeGolyer, the project's director, is not convinced that the latest results show that Mr Tung is unpopular. He says the real message is that one in five people have yet to make up their minds about their new leader.

He is, however, certain that it will be "very difficult for the incoming government to turn around and blame its predecessor" for problems it is likely to face. Satisfaction with the current government is higher than at any time since 1993. Seventy-three per cent of those questioned declared themselves to be happy with the outgoing administration, alongside a record 90 per cent who were satisfied with their lives in Hong Kong.

Perhaps sensing that he needs to polish his image a little, Mr Tung has hired Irene Yau to run his media relations. Mrs Yau, incidentally, ran the information department of Chris Patten's administration until this week. Steven Vines, Hong Kong