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The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"The inquiry has been criticised as toothless"
 real 56k

Monday, 7 August, 2000, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
HK academic 'told to stop polls'
Robert Chung
Mr Chung [right] says he was warned over surveys
By Damian Grammaticas in Hong Kong

A Hong Kong academic has begun giving evidence at an inquiry into his allegations that the territory's government pressured him to stop surveying public opinion because it did not like the results.

Tung Chee-hwa
Mr Tung has declined to appear at the inquiry
The pollster, Robert Chung, told the hearing his methods met international standards and were not biased against the government.

His surveys had been showing that the government and its leader Chief Executive Tung Che-hwa were becoming increasingly unpopular.

Mr Tung, who was appointed by Beijing, has declined to give evidence to the inquiry, but denies the allegations.

Discontent

Mr Chung, a slender, slightly nervous figure, has been measuring the popularity of the government for almost a decade.

Robert Chung
Mr Chung has been conducting polls for nearly a decade
He told the official inquiry how he was pressured to stop his opinion polls when discontent with the administration rose last year.

Mr Chung said he was called to a meeting at the office of his superior, the vice-chancellor of Hong Kong University, where he was given a message from the chief executive, Mr Tung.

"The message was that the chief executive had indicated to the vice-chancellor that he did not like the opinion polls that we were conducting," said Mr Chung.

"He especially [did not like] the polls which gave ratings on the chief executive's popularity as well as the [government's] performance."

In a second meeting several months later, Mr Chung said he was told his boss was most unhappy that he had continued to conduct his polls and it would be best to stop, otherwise his funding might dry up.

The row has brought to the fore serious concerns that academic and political freedoms might be eroded now that Hong Kong has reverted to Chinese administration.

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See also:

02 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Inquiry into HK 'gagging' row
07 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
HK Chief in opinion polls row
26 Feb 99 | Asia-Pacific
China must rule says Hong Kong court
29 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
Hong Kong leans towards Beijing
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