|The meeting between the Vice-Chancellor and Professor K.M. Cheng
and Professor Lieh-Mak on 11th May, 1999
Professor K.M.Cheng said that on one or two occasions he could not remember when he "heard the Vice-Chancellor mention that there were these people around the Chief Executive who were unhappy about what the University was doing. On those occasions, I remember at least once or twice Robert Chung's POP was mentioned."101
He went on to say that at a brief meeting on 11th May between himself, Professor Lieh-Mak and the Vice-Chancellor in the Vice-Chancellor's room they had asked the Vice-Chancellor for a $3,000,000 loan to set up the Institute of Public Policy and the Vice-Chancellor after giving a favourable response mentioned that he had met the Chief Executive and discussed three items one of which was Dr. Chung's POP.
He said "there was no indication of what kind of concern that was and what kind of indication that could be. It was just mentioned, three items".102
He said in answer to Mr. Fung that at that meeting the Vice-Chancellor did express some worry but that he did not mention any action.
Under cross-examination by Mr. Warren Chan, he said that he could not have got the information he heard on 11th May from some source other than the Vice-Chancellor and that the information had "registered quite strongly in my memory"103.
He reiterated that on the 11th May not only was the Chief Executive mentioned but also that a meeting was mentioned.
He said under cross-examination by Mr. Alan Hoo that "I have to tell the panel frankly that my impression at that time was that the concern (about Dr. Chung's POP Polls) was political. Otherwise it would not come from the CE's office or people around the C.E."104
He returned again to the meeting between the Vice-Chancellor and the Chief Executive saying that the Vice-Chancellor "mentioned three points. He mentioned that the Chief Executive was concerned about three things, and one of them was the public opinion poll"105.
He said that "the other two items were also political, but they were, to me, more or less overtaken by events"106.
He denied that he had an impression only of that meeting saying: "not impressions that just pop up once, but these are impressions that are constantly reinforced by sequential events. Therefore, I would not take that purely as impression."107
Professor Lieh-Mak holds the Chair of Professor and is head of the Department of Psychiatry. She said that she had chaired an ad hoc group to consider the formation of an Institute of Public Policy and that on 11th May 1999, after a meeting of that group, she and Professor K.M.Cheng went at 12.45 p.m. to see the Vice-Chancellor to ask for a bridging loan of $3 million to set up the Institute.
She said that towards the end of the meeting the Vice-Chancellor told them "about the meeting that he had with the Chief Executive"108.
She said that she remembered the first part of what he said about the meeting with the Chief Executive "because that really got me to remember the times when I was called to the then Governor's House, and you wonder what it is going to be all about, so I had great empathy with that."109
She said that she remembered the second part of what the Vice-Chancellor said about the meeting because she thought it "was an impossible task. That is why I made my comment subsequently that students will be students and academics will be academics; they have a mind of their own, and to exert any pressure would be counterproductive."110
She went on: "They were three issues, all of them political on nature. The third issue was on Dr. Robert Chung111 and his negative polls. As related by the Vice-Chancellor, the Chief Executive expressed some concerns about it, so [The Vice-Chancellor] went on to suggest that it might be a good idea for the proposed institute, which is now Policy 21, to oversee the work of Dr. Robert Chung".
She said that it was after this was said that she made her remark about students and academics.
She said also that she recalled, but could not recall whether it was "in a later meeting or this year's meeting", when "similar remarks about Dr. Robert Chung were made."112
She said in cross-examination that after the incident she had joked with Professor K.M. Cheng saying "Well, it is really difficult to control people. I cannot even control my own kids"113 and that she discussed the matter with colleagues who said ".... political pressures are political pressure.... We just carry on doing what we are very good at doing and do better."114
Later she said that she had great sympathy with the Vice-Chancellor as "he was caught between a rock and a hard place."115
The Vice-Chancellor when asked about the above conversation said "I have no recollection of that"116.
He went on to say "I am talking about something I do not have any personal knowledge about, because I never heard Mr. Tung, in the course of discussion with me so far in those limited number of meetings - he never went into such details; it was always based on broad issues. I never recall any incidents of him going into those kind of details"117.
We were not impressed by this reply from the Vice-Chancellor. We have no hesitation in accepting the evidence of the two professors.
We are satisfied, however, that it would not be proper for us to take our rejection of the Vice-Chancellor's evidence as proof of a conversation between him and the Chief Executive.
What the evidence establishes is that as at 11th May 1999 the Vice-Chancellor was saying that the Chief Executive had expressed concern about Dr. Chung's polls. This indicates that there was concern on the part of the Vice-Chancellor at that time about the polls.
We look first at the evidence of Professor S.L. Wong.
He said that after the meeting on 29th January he took no further action but listed 3 matters which he said led to the meeting of 1st November.
Firstly, he said that he was aware of the Ad hoc group which was set up in March 1999 under Professor Lieh-Mak to look into the setting up of an Institute of Public Policy which, inter alia, might provide a home for the SSRC.
In fact, in the outcome, it did not as the SSRC appears to have remained as it had been except that the POP group has been placed in the Centre for Journalism and Media Studies.
He said, however, that the uncertain future of the SSRC was a concern in his mind prior to November 1999.
He said that his second concern was the lack of in-depth scholarly research being done by Dr. Chung and that this was particularly in his mind as he was the Chairman of the Research Assessment Exercise Panel for Social Sciences and Education which was assessing research standards in, among other entities, the SSRC.
The third factor was newspaper reports sent to him by the External Relations Office of the University from which he noticed an extensive flow of reports on the Chief Executive's ratings, particularly in connection with his policy address, and that a number of these had been done by the POP team.
This was his state of mind when, quite fortuitously, he overheard a comment by the Vice-Chancellor.
He describes that event as follows: "Then I remember one day I heard the Vice-Chancellor commenting on a report in the South China Morning Post, inside the vice-chancellor's office. I remember that report referred specifically to the debate in the Legislative Council concerning the vote on the policy address. Mr. Martin Lee, in particular, made reference to Hong Kong U's polls on the performance of the Chief Executive and on the SAR Government and said that he disagrees with other Legislative Council members' support for the policy address, because he felt that the public opinion was actually against it, and he cited the Hong Kong U polls as part of his evidence. So I believe the vice-chancellor was very concerned about that remark in particular, but of course there were other reports at the same time linking Hong Kong U's name to POP's polls on the policy address of the Chief Executive. So that comment I heard from the vice-chancellor reminded me..."118
Here the Chairman pointed out to Professor S.L. Wong that he had never told the Panel what the comment was and he then went on: "I cannot recall exactly the wording. It was in Cantonese, but I cannot recall exactly the phrasing of it. I can only remember the gist, that because the name of the University was involved, and he did not want the University to be involved in political debates."119 (emphasis supplied).
He went to say that the comment was not made to anyone but that he had simply happened to overhear it and that, therefore, when he went back to his office he "took the copy of the Morning Post and read it [himself]."
When asked to be more specific as to the words used by the Vice-Chancellor he said "I believe that the Vice-Chancellor said at the time that, again, this report concerns our University. The name of the University is once again involved in these political discussion."120 (emphasis supplied)
Professor S.L. Wong said that he got the newspaper clipping and he highlighted the references to the Hong Kong U polls.
With all of his concerns in mind, but triggered by what the Vice-Chancellor had said, he asked his secretary to fix a meeting with Dr. Chung quickly as he was leaving for Shanghai that afternoon121.
The Vice-Chancellor said, in cross-examination, that he had now been reminded of the above incident; that he does have a habit of making comments while he is reading and that he had been "irritated"122 but not "concerned" by the article.
The evidence from Professor S.L. Wong was that the meeting on 29th January was triggered by a report by the Vice-Chancellor of a meeting with Mr. Lo and that the meeting on 1st November was triggered by a chance remark by the Vice-Chancellor but that, on neither occasion, had he been asked to do anything by the Vice-Chancellor.