SECTION IV - FINDINGS AND OPINION
When arriving at our conclusions we have borne in mind all of the evidence and the demeanour of each of the witnesses and have reached conclusions only when we are sure that they are justified by the evidence.

Given the gravity of this matter, we recognise that the evidential standard must be a high one. We have indicated at the hearing that we will apply the criminal standard of proof, namely, proof beyond reasonable doubt.160

In assessing the credibility of Dr. Chung, we have had regard to the following:

Dr. Chung is a dedicated academic zealously guarding the polling work which he has developed. He is obviously happy to be involved in such work and cherishes its attendant publicity.

Given his devotion to his polling work, we have no doubt that Dr. Chung will vehemently defend his POP programme and resent any form of curtailment.

We have warned ourselves the danger that Dr. Chung's evidence might be coloured by his obsession. The whole purpose of his article in the SCMP was "to invite the Chief Executive to publicly state that he will positively support these opinion polls."161

When this is coupled with his cross examination of Mr. Lo, there is force in Professor Y.Y. Chan's criticism that Dr. Chung was unduly anxious for blessing from authority as opposed to his peers.

However we do not accept that Dr. Chung's case can be displaced by his quest for recognition of his work.

He has no disagreement with Professor S.L. Wong on the following issues: on the desirability to move from technical polling to in-depth policy analysis; on the need to have a robust monitoring system to ensure quality and to guide the direction of research; on the need to reduce the frequency of tracking polls and on the need to dissociate the name of the whole University from the published works of individual researchers.

We are satisfied that some of these issues were indeed discussed in the November, 1999 meeting.

The meeting between Mr. Lo and the Vice-Chancellor Dr. Chung is a dedicated academic zealously guarding the polling work which he has developed.

He is obviously happy to be involved in such work and cherishes its attendant publicity.

Given his devotion to his polling work, we have no doubt that Dr. Chung will vehemently defend his POP programme and resent any form of curtailment.

We have warned ourselves the danger that Dr. Chung's evidence might be coloured by his obsession.

The events between 6th January and 29th January 2000

We are satisfied that Professor S.L.Wong did not come to know of the meeting between the Vice-Chancellor and Mr. Lo either at an SMT meeting in January, 1999, as he first suggested, or at a meeting on the 27th January, as he came to suggest after having had the advantage of seeing the statements of other witnesses.

We cannot therefore make any finding as to what was said in the conversation in which the matter was discussed between him and the Vice-Chancellor.

We are, however, sure that it was in consequence of that discussion that Professor S.L. Wong met and spoke to Dr. Chung.

The 2 meetings of 29th January and 1st November, 1999

The first question that must be answered is whether Professor Wong called these meetings at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor or on his own accord.

The second question that must be answered is whether the meetings were, as Professor S.L. Wong says, to give friendly academic advice to his junior or were, as Dr. Chung contends, to bring unjustifiable pressure to bear upon him to limit his polls.

We are plainly dealing with issues of credibility in relation to both meetings.

Was Professor S.L. Wong telling the truth or did it come from Dr. Chung?

For the 29th January, 1999 meeting, the real conflict came at the very outset of each witness' version of what was said.

Professor S.L. Wong said that he was relating views from various sources which included colleagues, people in the community, the Vice-Chancellor and people from the office of the Chief Executive.

Dr. Chung says that he was told that the Vice-Chancellor had received a message which was that the Chief Executive had indicated to the Vice-Chancellor that he did not like the opinion polls which he was conducting especially the polls which gave ratings on the Chief Executive's popularity as well as the SAR performance.

The clash of credibility in the 1st November, 1999 conversation was equally stark.

Dr. Chung said that he was told that the Vice-Chancellor was most unhappy with the survey.

Professor S.L. Wong said that he had said that the Vice-Chancellor was unhappy because the University's name was being dragged into political discussion.

Apart from this initial divergence, the real clash came in Dr. Chung's evidence when he said that the Vice-Chancellor was most unhappy that he had repeatedly conducted such polls and would want Dr. Chung to offer him an explanation and to tell him whether or not he would continue to conduct such surveys and that, if he did so continue, the Vice-Chancellor would "dry him up in a dark and cool place".

Professor S.L. Wong denied absolutely that these matters were said in the conversation.

We do not doubt that Professor S.L. Wong had at heart what he considered were the best interests of Dr. Chung.

We do not doubt that the Vice-Chancellor and perhaps to a lesser extent Professor S.L. Wong, believed that polling fell on the lowest rung of the ladder of academic value.

We accept that there were real concerns in 1998 and 1999 about the role and financial viability of the SSRC.

We accept also that it would have been difficult and risky to try to dry up the POP team.

We further accept that issues of academic concerns were raised at the 1st November, 1999 meeting.

While these matters must be placed in the balance, at the end of the day the issue starkly remains one of credibility.

What of the documentary evidence?

It is true that it is not conclusive but it gives some support to the evidence of Dr. Chung and little or none to that of Professor S.L. Wong.

The letter and enclosures of 5th January 1999 sent by Dr. Chung to the Vice-Chancellor indicate that an issue at the meeting with Mr. Lo on 6th January was to be the work of Dr. Chung.

Dr. Chung's action in cutting down the ad hoc polls and his failure to produce forewords for Combined POP Reports 4 and 5 are both consistent with his version but, it must be said, standing alone give no great support to it.

The circumstances of the writing of the letter of 11th November, the meeting with Dr. Ng, the exchanges with Professor Y.Y. Chan and the wording of the letter itself are wholly consistent with and supportive of Dr. Chung's evidence.

The natural flow of Dr. Ng's evidence gives strong fortification to the case of Dr. Chung.

We emphasize that none of the above matters could be said to be conclusive.

What is conclusive is that at the end of the day, having considered all that was placed before us, we have no hesitation in believing Dr. Chung.

We are sure that he is an honest witness who was telling the truth in relation to the matters that he is complaining about.

Having accepted the evidence of Dr. Chung, we are left in no doubt from the terms of what was said to him by Professor S.L. Wong on both occasions that he was being approached in an endeavour to ensure that the polls and his commentary thereon, even if perfectly legitimate, would not involve the University in "political discussion".

The January and November conversations were both covert attempts to push Dr. Chung into discontinuing his polling work. These covert attempts are in sharp contrast with the way whereby the Mirror Article was dealt with in early January, 2000.

Had the concern been truly academic in nature, it is inconceivable that Dr. Ng, as head of the SSRC, would not have been involved as indicated by his evidence.

What, we ask ourselves, would Dr. Ng have said had he found out that the POP team had, in the absence of any prior consultation with him, to undergo sudden change in direction. There is a secretive air about both meetings.

It is this failure to have open discussion through recognised channels that weighs heavily with the Panel when considering whether these were illicit endeavours to silence Dr. Chung because of political considerations.

We have no doubt that political consideration was the principal reason that motivated the 29th January, 1999 meeting.

We are further satisfied that, whilst there are other reasons that led to the 1st November, 1999 meeting, political consideration remained an operative one. This is our answer to the second question which we posed above.

The Panel wishes to emphasize its acknowledgement that it is always open to University authorities, using proper channels, to take action to ensure that an academic making statements that go beyond scholarly comment and involve him in political debate does so in his own name and not in the name of the University. What transpired at the 2 meetings went beyond this.

There was rather a specific attack made on the polls being carried out on the Chief Executive and the SAR Government.

They were a legitimate, if lowly ranked, academic activity and an attempt was being made, in a covert way, without reference to the proper channels, to stop Dr. Chung and the POP team from carrying them out.

It remains for us to answer the first question. Did Professor S.L.Wong at the 2 meetings of January and November, 1999 act at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor or on his own accord.

We have borne in mind the following factors.

Firstly, for reasons outlined above, we are sure that it was in consequence of a discussion between the Vice-Chancellor and Professor S.L. Wong that Professor S.L. Wong met and spoke to Dr. Chung in January, 1999. On Professor S.L. Wong's own evidence, the November conversation was a continuation of the earlier one. It would therefore not be appropriate to regard the 2 conversations in isolation.

Secondly, Professor S.L. Wong was clearly embarrassed to be carrying the messages which he bore. It is quite inconceivable that he would have spoken to Dr. Chung in the terms as set out in Dr. Chung's evidence (which we accept) unless he was doing so at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor.

Finally, what was said to Dr. Chung accords with the concern of the Vice-Chancellor as expressed to Professors K.M. Cheng and Lieh-Mak. Indeed the views expressed at the SMT meeting on 6th January 2000 (although they came later) to a significant extent reveal the attitude of the Vice-Chancellor and the importance he attached to the effect of the POP polls on the "public perception" of the University.

For these reasons, a majority of the Panel is satisfied that Professor S.L. Wong held the 2 meetings at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor.

One member of the Panel is so satisfied in relation to the January, 1999 meeting but is only satisfied on a balance of probabilities in relation to the November, 1999 meeting.

This is our answer to the first question posed above. Was the phrase "yum gone" the poll programme one that had come from the Vice Chancellor? The words were only used in answer to a later question from Dr. Chung asking what would happen if he did not stop carrying out the polls.

After consideration we are satisfied that there is a real possibility that the answer of Professor S.L. Wong could well have been a response indicating what he thought would be a possible consequence of Dr. Chung's refusal.

That this might well be so is reinforced by the fact that no such words were used when Professor S.L. Wong told Dr. Chung at the start of the conversation about the reaction of the Vice-Chancellor to the article but were only used at the end of the conversation in answer to a question by Dr. Chung which, had Dr. Chung not thought of it, might never have been asked at all.

OPINION

We are sure that as a result of the conversation between Mr. Lo and the Vice-Chancellor on 6th January, 1999, Professor S.L. Wong, acting at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor, conveyed a message to Dr. Chung on 29th January, 1999 which was calculated to inhibit his right to academic freedom.

A majority of the Panel is further satisfied that Professor S.L. Wong, again acting at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor, on 1st November, 1999 conveyed a similarly calculated message to Dr. Chung.

One member of the Panel is satisfied that such a message was conveyed but is satisfied only on a balance of probabilities that this was done at the behest of the Vice-Chancellor.

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