|The Meeting on 6th January 1999 between Mr. Lo & the Vice-Chancellor|
Mr. Lo said that the call between his secretary and that of the Vice-Chancellor to fix an appointment was made at some time either before or after the Christmas holiday in December 19984.
However on 4th January 1999 Mr. Lo said that he spoke by telephone with the Vice-Chancellor in a call which he says was initiated by the Vice-Chancellor telling him that he was making a courtesy visit and that he was interested in the SSRC and its polling work5.
The Vice-Chancellor said that he had no direct memory of this6. He said he does not think that he made the telephone call but that the evidence of Mrs. Kwan regarding the request to Dr. Chung must be correct.
This evidence was that on 4th January the Vice-Chancellor had asked her to find out some information from Dr. Chung on his POP activities including which were commissioned by external companies and which were self-funded7.
Mrs. Kwan then telephoned Dr. Chung telling him that the Vice-Chancellor requested him to submit a list of POP recent activities.
Dr. Chung said that he was told that this was a very urgent matter and on the following day 5th January, 1999 he submitted a letter to Mrs. Kwan enclosed with which was a "Public Opinion Programme Activity Profile."
This document comprehensively describes the POP programme showing that by the end of 1998 the POP team had done 41 electoral studies, 64 studies on political issues and a substantial number of studies on media development, social issues and youth matters.
On 8th January, 1999, Dr. Chung again wrote to Mrs. Kwan with more material but this letter is of little moment as the meeting between Mr. Lo and the Vice-Chancellor had already taken place.
As to the letter of 5th January, 1999 the Vice-Chancellor said that he might have "glanced through [it] very quickly to prepare for the meeting."8
The Vice-Chancellor's recollection of the meeting was that apart from pleasantries the conversation had consisted of two questions and one comment9.
The first question was whether the polls done by Dr. Chung were done in his personal capacity or in the name of the Hong Kong University10. To this he replied that they were done by the Department of the SSRC and that they did not represent the position of the Hong Kong University11.
The Vice-Chancellor said that Mr. Lo then asked whether the University had a system to supervise the polls and who decided the topics. He said that he answered this question by saying that the University did not have any monitoring mechanism but only had a mechanism with respect to quality assurance12.
This Panel is not quite sure what was meant by this. What were the mechanisms with respect to quality assurance and, if they existed, why were they not mentioned ?
The Vice-Chancellor went on to say that there was a lot of autonomy and freedom in the University and that no one could exert influence on research topics.
He said that finally Mr. Lo had said that Dr. Chung had written to Mr. C.H.Tung and made a detailed policy suggestion and, as he was a political commentator and pollster at the same time, would there be any conflict13.
The Vice-Chancellor said that he made no reply to this as he was not familiar with such issues and did not know whether these was a problem.
He said further that because his expertise was in applied science and engineering he did not quite understand what "conflicting roles" meant14.
Even accepting what the Vice-Chancellor said, his actions after the meeting are inexplicable as, according to his evidence, he made no attempt of any sort to ascertain the meaning of this comment and whether there was any truth in it.
The Vice-Chancellor was adamant that no complaint was made by Mr. Lo about the work of Dr. Chung and that the unfavourable polls of December, 1998 were never mentioned.
Mr. Lo's version of the meeting was put to the Vice-Chancellor by Mr. Alan Hoo S.C. in cross-examination.
It was suggested that he first explained that his visit was to establish contact with the University and that this was also being done with the other universities in Hong Kong15; that he then asked a question about the SSRC saying that it was not established when he was at the University; that he then asked about the nature and function of the Centre and whether it was part of the University or only nominally so; that the Vice-Chancellor then said that it was more of an attachment than a teaching body16.
The Vice-Chancellor said that he had no distinct memory of the above matters but that he could have said that it was not a teaching body.
It was put to the Vice-Chancellor by Mr. Hoo that Mr. Lo asked if the polls were conducted in the name of the University and that he had replied that the polls were conducted in the name of the research centre and "did not involve the University".
The Vice-Chancellor at first agreed to this17 but then amended his answer to say that what he had said was that the polls were "not conducted in the name of the University"18 but what he did not say was that they "did not involve the University".
It was put that Mr. Lo had then queried this but the Vice-Chancellor had no memory of any such query19. It was suggested that Mr. Lo was confused and that the Vice-Chancellor then told him that the work done by Dr. Chung was not monitored by the University.
The Vice-Chancellor agreed that this was so but did not agree that he had gone on to say that the University's principal concern was to ensure that all academic research must be of high standard20.
The Vice-Chancellor agreed that Mr. Lo had raised a question of conflicting roles because Dr. Chung was both a commentator and a pollster and had mentioned a letter which he had written to the Chief Executive21.
We turn now to the evidence of Mr. Lo. In his evidence in chief he said that he was the Senior Special Assistant to the Chief Executive and that about one third of his time was spent in liaison with community leaders which included persons such as university vice-chancellors22.
He said that his secretary fixed an appointment with the Vice-Chancellor of the Hong Kong University sometime between Christmas 1998 and the New Year holiday and he thought that thereafter the Vice-Chancellor had called him asking whether there was anything particular he wanted to know about.
He said that he told him that it was a courtesy call and that, when asked whether he had anything of particular interest, he told him that he "was interested to know about a Centre called the Social Sciences Research Centre.23"
He said that he had come across its name in newspapers and was "very interested to know about the relationship between this Centre and the University"24 (emphasis supplied). He said that his interest had been aroused because he "was constantly able to learn, to hear about surveys conducted by the Centre.25"
At the meeting Mr. Lo said that he told the Vice-Chancellor that his purpose was to get better acquainted and "to build up better communication in the future.26"
The Vice-Chancellor gave him a briefing of the present situation in the University and the topic then turned to the Social Sciences Research Centre and that he asked about the general operations of the Centre and its purpose.
He said that the Vice-Chancellor briefly explained the general operations of the Centre but he was able to remember that Dr. Chung's name was mentioned27.
He said that the impression he was left with was that the Centre was not a teaching unit and was not a think-tank but "was one which would take up commissioned polls from outside the University.28"
He said that eventually he asked whether the polls it conducted were "the official survey work conducted by the University or were they just the survey or research work of an individual research officer."
He said that the name of Dr. Chung was mentioned in the course of conversation and that he "began to recall his name29 and recalled that early in 1997 he had sent a submission to Mr. Tung"30 31 (emphasis supplied) and that whenever the media reported on the findings of polls conducted by the Centre, Mr. Chung's name would be mentioned.
Mr. Lo told us the answer to his question seeking to know who conducted the polls by the Vice-Chancellor was that they were done in the name of the SSRC and that when he sought further clarification the Vice-Chancellor told him that the University "followed the policy of academic freedom and therefore the management of the University would not pay particular attention to individual research projects but the management of the University had a duty to ensure that the results of such research work should be up to standard."32
Mr. Lo said that he then told the Vice-Chancellor "that Mr. Robert Chung had earlier on submitted a very detailed proposal on political reform. I felt that Mr. Robert Chung had very strong views about politics. Also in the course of my work for the last two years or more I had also noticed that Mr. Robert Chung had expressed his political views, although I did not have a very strong impression. So I just said that since Mr. Robert Chung was someone who conducted polls and at the same time was also a political commentator, I asked whether or not there might be a possibility of a conflict there."33 (emphasis supplied). He said that the Vice-Chancellor did not respond but "just smiled."34
Mr. Lo said that he never raised the results of the polls of the SSRC or of Dr. Chung and did not mention polls about the Chief Executive's popularity or the Government's performance nor did he mention anything about dissatisfaction with Dr. Chung's polling work35.
Mr. Lo said that the conversation concerning the University and the SSRC lasted for about 15 - 20 minutes36.
The Vice-Chancellor however estimated that the meeting was about 30 minutes in duration37 of which a "rough majority" of about 20 minutes were devoted on the subject of polls38.
Mr. Lo went on to tell of a later meeting with Vice-Chancellor Li of the Chinese University during which he "commended [Professor Lau Siu Kai and the Centre of Asian Studies of the University] on the public opinion polls that they were conducting39".
He explained his making of this commendation by saying "Because I was not acquainted with opinion polls and I saw myself as just a consumer and I had the intuition that the polling work that they were doing was very good.40"
The Panel notes that the loose description "very good" is markedly different from the description used in Mr. Lo's signed statement of 5th August, 2000 in which he said that he commended the polls as they "struck me as having been conducted in a scientific and objective manner."41
He went on to say that the Centre of Asian Studies polls were conducted in a more "detailed or meticulous manner.42"
He said that overall the polls, including those of the SSRC, were not giving Mr. Tung "really" bad ratings and that polls of the Government's performance were also done by the Home Affairs Bureau which at times gave quite negative results on Government performance.
Finally he said that he had never reported about his meeting with the Vice-Chancellor to the Chief Executive.43
Under cross examination by Mr. Fung, Mr. Lo said that when he spoke to the Vice-Chancellor on the phone prior to the meeting that he "explained to him that I was just going to make a courtesy call and there was no special purpose for that visit.
Then over the phone the thought suddenly came to me that I would make use of that opportunity to ask him about the SSRC and that is why I put forward that request"44 (emphasis supplied).
Mr. Lo later went on to say that neither he nor Mr. Tung placed importance on polls giving personal popularity ratings and that there was no sense of criticism in his observation about a possible conflict of roles on the part of Dr. Chung45.
The witness was then asked by the Chairman about the following passage in his statement of 5th August, 2000: "I queried whether there might possibly be a conflict of roles by Dr. Chung in carrying out and analysing the polls on the one hand and on the other hand taking a political stance as evidenced by his many political views given in the media."46
This is in very much the same terms as the evidence he gave which is set out above. The witness however then made an extraordinary volte face saying that he did not mention Dr. Chung in this context but had used the term "someone."
When Mr. Wong S.C. rephrased the passage to read "...I queried in a mild and polite manner that there might be a conflict of roles by someone in carrying out and analysing the polls on the one hand and on the other hand taking a political stance", he said he would "appreciate" it if his statement could be amended to read in that way.47
Mr. Lo later in cross examination, again in apparent conflict with his earlier evidence, denied ever having made a study of the opinion polls of the Chinese University and denied ever having said (although the words appear in para. 12 of his written statement of 5th August, 2000) that the polls had been "conducted in a scientific and objective manner".
He later told the Chairman that he would like to withdraw those words and replace them with the words "very good"48.
Finally it was put to Mr. Lo that in his initial press statement of 21st July, 2000 he said that the purpose of his meeting with the Vice-Chancellor was to gain a fuller understanding of opinion polls in general and that he wanted the Vice-Chancellor to enlighten him on this matter.
This sits ill with his evidence that the appointment was made so that he could pay a courtesy call and the thought of raising the SSRC "suddenly came to" him in the telephone call just prior to the meeting. His explanation of this apparent contradiction was not convincing.
Mr. Lo was cross examined by Dr. Chung. Before cross examining Dr. Chung made the following statement:
"...after attending so many days of hearing, I am gradually forming the impression that the messages which I had received ...might not have been coming from the original source. In the course of the transmission of these messages, the so-called "messages" sometimes get distorted, value added - I must say it is value subtracted - and pressure added..."49
He continued by comparing the role he played and the roles played by other academics in the Chinese University50.
Mr. Lo was asked whether the Chief Executive was aware of his work as a member of the Central Policy Unit.51
Mr. Lo was further asked about the letter which Dr. Chung sent to Mr. Tung before the handover in 1997.
Dr. Chung queried whether there was any feedback from Mr. Lo or the Chief Executive or any other person52 on his electoral submission with which Mr. Lo said he was "impressed".
Dr. Chung concluded his cross examination by saying: "...I feel that if we could have had this dialogue much earlier, it would have been much better for the world."53 Mr. Lo was a poor and untruthful witness.
The Panel was left with the clear impression that he was not recalling and recounting what had actually happened at his meeting with the Vice-Chancellor but was giving a sanitized version of that conversation in order to distance himself as far as he could from any suggestion of criticism of the work of Dr. Chung.
Further we do not accept the evidence of the Vice-Chancellor as to that conversation. Much of what he said may have occurred but we are satisfied that he has not told us all that occurred and we remain quite unconvinced that except for a mention of the matter at a SMT meeting he put the matter from his mind and took no action of any sort.