Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s popularity hit another record low after recent clashes between police and protesters over an amendment to an extradition bill.
Lam scored 30.1 out of 100 in popularity, a figure significantly worse than two weeks ago and her lowest score since she became the chief executive in 2017.
The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute interviewed 1,002 respondents from July 17 to 19 after two protests turned into violent conflicts between anti-extradition bill protesters and police in Sheung Shui and Shatin in the New Territories.
The survey’s result released on Tuesday showed that Lam’s disapproval rating was 70%, while the approval rating was only 21%, giving her a net popularity of negative 49 percentage points.
Hong Kong people were not satisfied with her performance, nor did they trust the government led by Lam, the survey showed. The net satisfaction of the overall performance of the Hong Kong government stood at negative 52 percentage points, while the net trust value was negative 31 percentage points.
People were also dissatisfied with the current economic, livelihood and political conditions. The net satisfaction rates were negative 19, negative 43 and negative 82 percentage points respectively. The livelihood and political conditions had recorded all-time lows since records began in 1992.
With the low popularity rate of the city chief and the government, plus the dissatisfaction among people over livelihoods and political conditions, rifts in society may grow if both the police and protesters continue to use force in the coming protests.
A human rights group urged restraint from both sides.
Since the delayed response by the police force over the Yuen Long attack on July 21 when a group of people, some of them said to be gangsters, attacked people indiscriminately at the MTR Station, the general public became furious. Some showed up to support the protesters in Yuen Long and Sheung Wan last weekend, despite those events not being approved by the police force.
Some protesters turned radical. They attacked police with bricks, glass bottles, paint bombs and shot metal marbles from a crossbow, a government release said.
Video showed that large traffic signs removed from kerbs and hefty objects were hurled from height at police officers on the ground, posing serious threats to their lives.
Bows and arrows, which the police claimed as lethal weapons, were seized at the scene.
The police force, on the other hand, also escalated their use of force and weapons over the weekend.
Countless tear gas canisters, pepper balls and rubber bullets were shot from the bridge or a multi-story carpark at the retreating protesters on the ground or fired where a number of reporters had gathered. The police had not yet disclosed the number of weapons used over the weekend.
From the live media coverage, riot police deployed tear gas canisters every time police pushed forward or when the protesters came too close. Video also showed the police firing several shots at the protesters.
According to photos online, the canister casings picked on a Sheung Wan street showed “EXP: 10/2016,” leading some to suspect that the police used tear gas with expired used by dates.
Meanwhile, the media found the police fired tear gas, sponge grenades and rubber bullets, claimed to be nonlethal but painful.
Photos on social media showed protesters and reporters with palm-sized bruises on their chests and arms after being hit by these bullets.
The United Kingdom stopped issuing licenses on crowd control equipment to Hong Kong in late June.
Amnesty International also called on the US, UK, Germany, France and other countries to suspend supplies of crowd control equipment to Hong Kong, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, projectile launchers and parts and components as the Hong Kong police showed they violated international law and standards on the use of force.
Wong Ho-yin, a member of Civil Right Observer, said the government was now using police officers to suppress the protesters, not solving the conflicts in a political way. Wong worried that would only lead to more anger among citizens and protesters and a possible escalation of violence in the future, the Ming Pao Daily reported.
Meanwhile, police are ready to use anti-riot vehicles armed with water cannon once a road test has been passed.
On Tuesday, at least one of the vehicles was seen spraying water inside the Police Tactical Unit headquarters in Fanling in the New Territories before being driven out onto the streets, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.
It was widely speculated that the three armored vehicles, which arrived in Hong Kong last year, could be deployed to rein in protesters as early as this weekend.
Local media earlier reported that the police will mix water with liquid dye to allow officers to identify protesters after they are dispersed. Police refused to comment on the speculation.
Critics have cautioned against deploying water cannons as the streets and roads in Hong Kong are narrow, which means not only protesters but passersby might get thrown against metal railings by the force of the water, causing serious injuries.