Henry Tang, facing a public outcry over a basement built illegally, should quit the race to be Hong Kong’s next leader, according to two-thirds of respondents in a South China Morning Post poll.
The former chief secretary won the support of 16 percent of 506 respondents in the poll conducted on Feb. 20 and 21. Leung Chun-ying, a former government adviser, was favored by 63.9 percent, the paper said today. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
Tang, vowing to battle on, secured nominations from almost a third of the 1,200 member election committee this week as the scandal threatens to derail the ambitions of a candidate backed by the richest men in Hong Kong. His sinking popularity highlights the divide between business elites and residents, as surging property prices and a growing wealth gap stoke discontent.
“I think Henry Tang should withdraw from the race,” said Eric Cheung Tat-Ming, a member of the election committee representing lawyers. “The building of an illegal basement could be a criminal offence, and we can’t afford to have a top leader who is involved in a criminal investigation.”
This is the last time Hong Kong will pick its chief executive through an election committee, comprising tycoons, lawmakers and representatives from China, before moving to universal suffrage in 2017. The election is on March 25.
In the poll published today, 77.8 percent of the respondents said the scandal had a negative impact on Tang’s integrity. The proportion of those who want him to withdraw rose to 66 percent compared with 51.3 percent last week.
Li Ka-shing, Thomas Kwok and Lee Shau Kee, who control three of Hong Kong’s four biggest developers by market value, were among the 378 who supported Tang’s nomination to be chief executive, according to the nomination papers filed.
Tang, 59, was also nominated by Bank of East Asia Chairman David Li, Wynn Macau Ltd.’s Vice Chairman Allan Zeman, Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd.’s Deputy Chairman Francis Lui and Peter Wong, HSBC Holdings Plc’s Asia chief executive officer, according to the nomination papers.
Hong Kong newspapers, including Apple Daily and the South China Morning Post, reported that the basement, built without government approval, contained a wine cellar, wine-tasting room, movie theater and gym. An investigation is underway and Tang has said the basement was in a property owned by his wife.