Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s popularity plunged to a historical low and a recent survey showed she was the least popular of all her predecessors.

According to the latest Public Opinion Program survey by the Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI), Lam’s popularity rating stood at 22.3 points from September 30 to October 3, down from 24.9 in the previous survey in mid-September.

Her approval rating was 15%, while the disapproval rating reached 80%, giving her a net popularity of negative 65 percentage points. This figure was a significant drop of 8 percentage points from the last survey.

The survey interviewed 1,004 people by phone and was conducted before the government officially announced the enactment of the anti-mask law by invoking the colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance last Friday.

Of Lam’s top three aides, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah’s rating was even worse, with only 14.7 marks, down from 17.7 in the previous survey.

A total of 75% of people disapproved of Cheng, while those supporting her fell to a single-digit of 7%, leading to her net popularity reaching negative 69 percentage points.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu scored the worst among the principal officials with a negative 53 marks, followed by Secretary for Education Kelvin Yeung Yun-hung, who saw a substantial fall of 18 points to a negative 50.

Institute founder Robert Chung Ting-yiu said the latest poll result did not reflect public opinion over the enactment of the anti-mask law.

Chung, a veteran pollster who established The Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong in 1991, said he was a bit sad as he found Lam’s administration did not care about public opinion and the popularity figures had lost their meaning as a guide for governance.

Questions over masked men

Meanwhile, video footage surfaced on social media casting more doubt on the role Hong Kong police have played in the protests.

The video footage showed a local resident in Sheung Shui, in the northern part of the New Territories, spotting several masked men inside the Sheung Shui MTR Station at 11pm on Monday. The station closed early at 8pm due to damage and vandalism.

The video showed the local resident, who claimed he was only passing by the station on his way to buy some late-night snacks, spot some men dressed in black inside the station.

The local man asked the masked men who they were, but the masked man didn’t reply and instead shone a torch at the man’s camera. The resident then asked, “is this the same torch that the police officers use?”

Police officers at protest sites were seen shining their torches at protesters or media cameras. The video then showed one of the masked men pointing a pepper spray canister at people outside the station gate.

Online citizens commented and said the police officers had deliberately disguised themselves as “rioters” in order to frame protesters for further vandalism.

Many people online asked if the station had closed down, how could the “rioters” enter the station and damage the facilities, without any police interference.

The police force on Tuesday refuted the rumors on its Facebook page and denied allegations that officers disguised as rioters had inflicted damage inside the MTR station. But they admitted that plainclothes officers were deployed to carry out investigations in the station.

The police said the officers “certainly will not break the law” and they would continue to make use of different methods to combat crime according to operational needs.

The MTR also confirmed that several police officers were sent to the station for what it called an “inspection” in view of public activities nearby, Radio Television Hong Kong reported.

On Wednesday, seven stations remained closed and services on all lines were to end early at 8pm, following widespread vandalism on Monday, the railway operator said.

Kwun Tong and Mong Kok stations on the Kwun Tong Line, Tseung Kwan O and Hang Hau stations on the Tseung Kwan O line, Che Kung Mau Station and Sha Tin Wai and Shek Mun stations on the Ma On Shan line – all services were to end at 8pm on Wednesday.

The rail company said about 12,000 turnstiles, 800 ticket-vending and add-value machines and 900 CCTV cameras were damaged at various stations on Monday. About 40 elevators and 70 roller shutters were also vandalized.

A video clip showed a citizen testing the functionality of facilities inside a station. He checked an add-value machine which had a “Not in use because of vandalism” notice on by inserting a HK$100 banknote. It showed the machine functioned well without a problem.