Lukewarm Response to Hong Kong’s Policy Address on Oct 25

On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee unveiled his second policy address in a comprehensive three-hour speech, detailing 640 measures to rejuvenate the economy and promote development. 

 Hong Kong has many strengths. We should treasure them, without inflating our ego. In face of competition, we should never be complacent; we should not be frustrated or doubt ourselves when we lag behind,” said John Lee.

Yet, subsequent public opinion polls and market oscillations indicate a less favorable reception compared to his preceding address. 

Chief Executive John Lee at the press conference for the ‘2023 Policy Address’ on October 25th (Image: Hong Kong Government Press Release)

Polls Reflect Mixed Views on HK Leadership

Capturing a glimpse of public sentiment, a Yahoo poll conducted during John Lee’s second Policy Address revealed mixed feelings among the populace regarding his policy propositions.

The poll, with nearly 8,800 participants, highlighted significant dissatisfaction, with a substantial 29.3% of respondents giving the address a rating of “0,” making it the most selected rating.

When excluding those 27.9% with no opinion, the average rating for the address was a meagre 2.72, indicating widespread disappointment.

Yahoo Poll Asks: “How Would You Rate John Lee’s Second Policy Address?” (Image: Yahoo Poll)

 To be honest, I am not surprised at the polling results. The whole policy address thing is so boring. It really cannot affect my life.” said Larrisa, working at a coffee shop in Sheung Wan, commenting on the polling results.

Market Unresponsive to Lee’s Economy-Boosting Policy

Despite the anticipation surrounding John Lee’s policy address, which emphasized tax cuts and relaxed property transaction restrictions, the market’s enthusiasm appeared to be subdued.

The Hang Seng Index’s volatile ride continued, closing at 16,990 points, down 94 points from the previous day, falling once again below the crucial 17,000-point mark. The day’s market turnover amounted to a mere 42.1 billion Hong Kong dollars.

Hong Kong stock market initially showed promise with a 473-point surge. However, the Hong Kong stock market surged mainly due to positive news, including Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s upcoming visit to the United States on October 26 and China’s approval of an increase in the issuance of 2023 government bonds.

These gains dwindled after the Chief Executive’s address, and the Hang Seng Index closed with only a 93-point gain at 17,085 points, and the Hang Seng Index drops 0.24% to 10744 points on Oct 26.

On October 26, the Hang Seng Index closed lower, dropping from 17,085 points on the 25th to 10,744 points on the 26th. (Figure: Hang Seng Index)

One key disappointment was the limited relaxation of property transaction rules, which left the market unimpressed. Real estate stocks, which initially showed gains, saw most of them decline in the afternoon, except for Sino Land, which gained slightly. 

The relaxation of cooling measures is only a band-aid solution that is unlikely to reverse the downward trend of home prices,” said Joseph Tsang, chairman of property consultancy JLL in Hong Kong, to Reuters. 

Parental Incentive: Mixed Emotions Among Hong Kong Couples

Hong Kong is introducing a series of measures to encourage childbirth and improve the environment for raising children. According to the 2023 Policy Address, parents of newborns in Hong Kong are slated to receive a cash reward of HK$20,000, alongside the advantage of tax deductions.

The aim is to stimulate the birth rate, but some insiders believe that offering a larger cash grant might convey unintended messages to couples.

“They are only sweeteners that will last for a short time, but they will not help me with a responsibility that I will have for the rest of my life” said Michelle Lee to South China Morning Post, a 27-year-old primary teacher.

Mrs. Fung, who is now 34 years old and has been in a relationship for about four years, shared a common skepticism. While appreciating the financial support, they voice concerns about the long-term implications and the government’s intrusion into personal life choices.

“I really don’t like the government’s interference on my choice of having a baby or not. Though the policy is not forcing people to have a baby, I still feel uncomfortable with the feeling like I am being treated as a ‘birthing machine,'” said Mrs. Fung.

In the survey conducted by Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute on  519 respondents who watched the address, John Lee’s rating of 44.4 is the lowest among the five leaders. 

The first three Chief Executives all received passing grades, scoring above 50 points. Even John Lee’s predecessor, Carrie Lam, though falling short of a passing grade, had a rating close to 50 points.

Policy Address Instant Satisfaction Rate from 1997 to 2023 (Image: Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute)

This data underscores a challenging terrain for Hong Kong’s leadership. The tepid response to John Lee’s policy address and his ensuing performance casts a spotlight on pivotal questions regarding the city’s governance trajectory.

dFeature Image Caption: Chief Executive John Lee hosted a press conference for the “Chief Executive’s 2023 Policy Address” yesterday afternoon (October 25) at the Tamar Government Headquarters. (Image: Hong Kong Government Press Release)

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