|The meeting of 1st November 1999 between Dr. Chung and Professor S.L. Wong|
At 10 a.m. on 1st November Professor S.L. Wong met Dr. Chung.
He said that he told him at the start that he wanted to discuss with him the work of his POP team and the view that different people had about his polls and also his research work and that he wanted the "meeting to be deemed a personal one"123.
He said that he showed him the clipping from the South China Morning Post and told him that the "Vice-Chancellor was very unhappy because, once again, the name of the Hong Kong University was dragged into the political discussion. I also told him that I had read some recent reports about his polls on the performance of the Chief Executive and the SAR Government and that apparently, such polls had not been reduced in number"124 (emphasis supplied).
It is worth noting that the clipping of which complaint is made stated simply "The figures [carried in the University of Hong Kong survey] are important".
There is no suggestion that this was the opinion of the University or of any University officer. Any right thinking person must have realized that the opinion was that of the people who had been surveyed.
The Professor went on to say that he told Dr. Chung that he shared the concern of the Vice-Chancellor and that "it would be better to differentiate between polls which were conducted by Chung Ting Yiu and the Social Sciences Research Centre and not say that they represent surveys conducted by the University overall".125
He said that he also told Dr. Chung that perhaps too many polls "descriptive in nature" were being done and that he and his team should "conduct research into in-depth policy studies."126
He said that he "might have said to him that the Vice-Chancellor wished to know when they would make the change and focus more on policy research, but I did not give him any deadline as to when he should give either myself or the Vice-Chancellor a reply."127
He said that he also asked if the polls on the Chief Executive and SAR Government had been reduced in number and that Dr. Chung simply said that they were ongoing tracking surveys.
He said that he reiterated the point made in January that such frequent polls were not necessary to detect the trend128 and that he also discussed Dr. Chung's academic publications.
He denied ever having used the terms "yum gone" saying that neither he nor the Vice-Chancellor would use such a vulgar phrase129 and that there would be no point in saying that as the POP team was financially independent.
He said that Dr. Chung did mention to him that the Chief Executive and the Vice-Chancellor did not have a sufficient understanding about his research work but that he did not ask Dr. Chung to submit a report either to him or to the Vice-Chancellor130.
He went on to say that after his return from Shanghai he received a letter from Dr. Chung dated 11th November which has now been mislaid and that he conveyed the gist of it to the Vice-Chancellor at an informal meeting on 12th November131.
He said that on 25th November he received another letter which he did pass on to the Vice-Chancellor132.
He said that he had probably mentioned the letter of the 11th November at the SMT meeting on that day and that on the 12th at an informal meeting with Mrs. Kwan, Mr. Wai and the Vice-Chancellor he did discuss the future development of the SSRC133.
There is a minute of that discussion which states that Professor S.L. Wong "reported on his discussion with Mr. Robert Chung on the role of the Social Science Research Centre in contributing to the local community" and that the Vice-Chancellor opined that "SSRC should not be involved in projects of merely routine opinion surveys" but should play "the proper role of an academic/research unit, by conducting in-depth study and analysis of social problems in Hong Kong and proposing solutions to these problems."
This exchange falls far short of raising the matters canvassed in the conversation of 1st November and pursued by Dr. Chung in his letter of 11th November.
We turn now to the evidence of Dr. Chung. He said that he was told Professor S.L. Wong's secretary that the meeting with Professor S.L. Wong was to be at 10:30 a.m. on 1st November to talk about the opinion survey on the policy address134.
He said that to prepare for the meeting he got together "all the relevant documents" and had them hand delivered to Professor S.L. Wong's office and that on arrival at 10:30 a.m. Professor S.L. Wong "was telling me that he had something to tell me but he found it very difficult to do so."135
He told me "that the Vice-Chancellor had read from the press certain reports or coverage on the surveys that we are conducting and that the Vice-Chancellor was most unhappy"136.
He said that he was shown a copy of the South China Morning Post article and that the Professor "explained to me that the Vice-Chancellor was most unhappy we had repeatedly conducted such polls and that the Vice-Chancellor would want me to offer him an explanation and to tell him whether or not I would continue with such surveys."137
If this evidence be true it does not sit well with the evidence of Professor S.L. Wong that he had called the meeting to canvass a number of matters one of which was a chance remark by the Vice-Chancellor.
On the contrary, this would be evidence to indicate that the November meeting was with the cognisance of the Vice-Chancellor who wished to put a stop to the legitimate polling activities of Dr. Chung.
Dr. Chung said he hesitated and Professor S.L. Wong later said that there was no need to give an immediate answer and that he "would be able to think about it seriously."138
He said that a timetable for his reply was discussed and that Professor S.L. Wong said he would be able to offer an explanation to the Vice-Chancellor at a SMT meeting and that it was eventually agreed that he would have his answer ready by the SMT meeting on Thursday 11th November.
He said that he asked what was the attitude of the Vice-Chancellor to the continuation of his polls and was told "that as far as the Vice-Chancellor was concerned, his position was it would be best if I were to stop conducting such polls altogether."140
He said the Professor S.L. Wong added that he also thought that it would be best for him to stop conducting such polls141.
He said that when he asked what would be the consequence if he were to continue with such surveys "Professor S.L. Wong told me that the Vice-Chancellor would - he said in Chinese 'yum gone our programme' which means literally 'drying up in a dark and cool place.' "142
He said that other matters were canvassed such as his years of pioneering effort in opinion polls and the need to consider doing other types of work.143
He said that shortly after the conversation he, for the first time, discussed the matter with a third party namely Dr. Ng, his "boss".
Dr. Ng's evidence was that at a meeting with Dr. Chung in October or November of 1999 Dr. Chung told him that "he had met with Professor S.L. Wong and that the meeting was about his polls on the Chief Executive and the SAR Government and the ratings given to both.
He said that he heard a message that the Vice-Chancellor did not like him conducting such polls. I was surprised and he told me that the Chief Executive did not like him conducting such polls."
He said that he had asked Dr. Chung why and Dr. Chung said that he had heard a message from Professor S.L. Wong and "the message was that the Chief Executive was not happy".144
At this meeting Dr. Chung said that "he had to give an answer to Professor S.L. Wong about whether he would still continue to do the polls on the popularity of the C.E. or of the Government. So he told me that he had to give an answer about whether he would continue to do it, and, if he were not to continue to do it, when not to continue to do it."145
Dr. Chung told him that he asked Professor S.L. Wong "What if I do not stop the polling ?" and Professor S.L. Wong replied "What would happen if I were to 'yum gone' your project ?".
Dr. Ng said he was surprised by these words as no one had told him as Dr. Chung's then superior that Dr. Chung should stop his work and Dr. Ng could see no reason how Dr. Chung could be dried up.146 Dr. Chung apparently smiled and agreed with Dr. Ng that it was not possible to dry him up.147"
He said that he then questioned Dr. Chung about what data had been released and that at the time of this meeting Dr. Chung was preparing an answer to Professor S.L. Wong.
He said that he asked could he talk to Professor S.L. Wong but was told that would not be necessary as Dr. Chung hoped that Dr. Ng would keep it confidential148.
Dr. Ng said that he did nothing because it was personal and everybody knew that Professor S.L. Wong was Dr. Chung's "mentor".
He interpolated then to say that prior to this meeting he had on a Monday in November in the afternoon received a letter and a bundle of documents149.
This letter states that the material accompanying it reflects how his work has been misunderstood, suggests a discussion with Ceci (Professor Cecilia Chan) and asks that the matter be kept confidential. It is dated 30/10/99 two days before the meeting with Professor S.L. Wong.
He said that Dr. Chung said that he had to finish the document before 11th November explaining that he could not stop doing the polls and asked whether he could pass the draft to Dr. Ng.
One or two days later Dr. Chung came back with the draft. Dr. Ng was unable to locate that draft but a copy of the letter was produced by Dr. Chung.
Dr. Ng said that he made suggestions which were incorporated in the letter150. He said that Dr. Chung told him that he still wanted to keep the matter private151.
Dr. Chung also consulted Professor Y.Y.Chan about this letter in a series of E-mails headed "Arguing for the dead ? (confidential)".
The one on the 9th November 1999 stated "Dear Ying, please help me improve my arguments. Don't ask whom I would send this to. Robert".
She did not have time to reply to this and a further E-mail on 10th November was sent containing a revised draft. To this she replied giving detailed suggestions including one which stated that volunteering to allow vetting "for political reasons ........... would be scandelous (sic)." The last E-mail in this series dated 10th November, 1999 from Dr. Chung to Professor Y.Y. Chan bears the same heading.
After thanking Professor Chan for her comments, Dr. Chung said this: "My suggestion per Para. 5 (censorship) is really to test VC's gut. His act so far, if true, is already scandelous (sic). Only that I don't have anything formal."
The letter as finally sent referred to the "VC's concerns"; agreed that the POP team should excel more in areas of in-depth policy research rather than just turning out opinion polls; referred to the proposed Policy Institute under whose umbrella the POP team might be brought and said finally:
"However, it will probably take two to three months for the policy institute and the new centre/unit to be established.
Before then it would not be wise for us to stop our operation immediately because:
- We would lose our credit of neutrality if we stop polling Government performance when it is on the way up (especially after confirmation of the Disneyland, offering of the Tracker Fund and improvement in the economy). The two newspaper clippings attached demonstrate this.
- The media would be after us for an explanation possibly leading to irresponsible stories.
As an interim measure, may I suggest that we add a standard rider to all our surveys, saying that they are the work of individual researchers and do not reflect the stand of the university.
I hoped the V.C. will appreciate our effort of trying to solve the problem in the most natural and decent manner."
Dr. Chung said that he submitted this document to Professor S.L. Wong on 11th November.
Dr. Chung was cross examined by Professor Y.Y. Chan.
They first met in about July 1998 when Professor Y.Y. Chan returned to Hong Kong from the States.152 They co-operated in various projects in 1999.153
Dr. Chung told her that he faced various pressures including financial, administrative and that he felt pressures from his former boss, Dr. Bacon-Shone.154
Dr. Chung also sought her support and guidance in various matters including his transfer to the Journalism and Media Studies Centre.
Dr. Chung however accepted that he did not tell Professor Y.Y. Chan about his January and November meetings with Professor S.L. Wong.155 He also did not mention to her his belief that he had received a message from the Chief Executive through a special channel nor did he mention any political pressure.
From January to 7th July, 2000, Dr. Chung also made no mention to her that he felt under political pressure from the Vice-Chancellor; Professor S.L. Wong or anything else.156
Dr. Chung explained that he did not wish to "land [Professor Y.Y. Chan] in an immoral position"157
Dr. Chung admitted that after his transfer to the Journalism and Media Studies Centre, Professor Y.Y. Chan never restricted his work on his polls.158
The only other event to note in November was a letter from Dr. Chung to Professor S.L. Wong dated 25th November, 1999 stating that the enclosed newspaper clippings (reporting on poll results) "which mentioned H.K.U. are not related to my team". This letter was passed on to the Vice-Chancellor.
That completes the evidence to which reference need be made regarding the events of November 1999.
There are sharp clashes of credibility in the evidence as to the conversation on November 1st.
Professor S.L. Wong says that it came about because he had a number of concerns to raise with Dr. Chung only one of which was the chance remark that he had overheard fall from the lips of the Vice-Chancellor.
He says that he mentioned that the Vice-Chancellor was unhappy not with the polls but with the mention of the name of the Hong Kong University. This is in direct contrast with the evidence of Dr. Chung who says that from the outset the polls were directly targeted.
Dr. Chung agreed that broader areas of concern were discussed but the conversation was pre-occupied with criticisms against the polls.
Professor S.L. Wong said that he simply said that too many were being conducted.
Dr. Chung says that he was told that the Vice-Chancellor wanted his explanation as to whether or not he would continue with his surveys and that if he did continue they would be "dried up in a dark and cool place."
Was this said or was it a malicious concoction by Dr. Chung? There is clearly no room here for mistaken impression or faulty recollection.
When we come to consider the conversation in its proper context, it certainly can be suggested that support is given to Dr. Chung's version by his action in the following days. He consulted his superior Dr. Ng and he did prepare a letter justifying his work which argued against the very matter that he says was the real issue - a cessation of his polling work. We will return in our conclusion to a resolution of these matters.