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Friday, 7 July, 2000, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
HK Chief in opinion polls row
Tung Chee-hwa
Mr Tung's popularlity has been plummeting
By Damian Grammaticas in Hong Kong

A leading Hong Kong academic says he has been warned by the territory's Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa to stop carrying out public opinion polls that show the administration is unpopular.

The claim of improper interference against the Chief Executive came in Friday's edition of the daily South China Morning Post.

The head of the University of Hong Kong's public opinion programme, Robert Chung said that more than once he was given "a clear message from Tung Che-hwa via a special channel that my polling activities were not welcomed and our polls should stop."

In a rare public statement Mr Tung rushed to deny he had ever interfered.

"I have not asked any and I have not authorised anyone to ask any institutions, universities or poll-takers to stop taking polls, I have not done that," he said.

Popularity problem

Last month just 20% of people in Hong Kong said Mr Tung should serve a second term.

Over half felt he was a worse ruler than the colonial government.

His popularity has plummeted in the wake of a scandal over public housing, a policy u-turn, and economic troubles.

Mr Chung stood by his allegations and welcomed the Chief Executive's statement.

"He is telling the people of Hong Kong that at least from now on he will pay very good attention to opinion surveys and academics will not be interfered with or put under any pressure," he told reporters. "That's good enough for me."

The spat though will do little to reverse the Chief Executive's unpopularity and criticism he lacks political and public relations skills.

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