Wednesday, December 2, 2015   

Pollster attack hard to burn up

Mary Ma

Monday, March 10, 2014


Peter Lee Ka-kit, the eldest son of tycoon Lee Shau-kee, made news headlines with his criticism of University of Hong Kong pollster Robert Chung Ting-yiu.

He tried to discredit the veteran pollster and his surveys. In doing so, Peter Lee proposed to set up a new platform whereby other opinion polls would be conducted to counter the unfavorable findings often released by Chung at critical moments.

Would this snowball into another huge outcry - similar to what happened a decade ago when Chung was caught up in the controversy that eventually forced then HKU vice chancellor Cheng Yiu-chung to resign for interfering with academic freedom?

That was the question asked. Hong Kong's media corps wouldn't miss such a hot topic. In no time, they went after others for comment, and suddenly, Lee's idea seemed serious. There was even speculation it had Beijing's blessing.

The media suffered a let down when they asked Lee to elaborate the next day - and he had nothing to add.

Yesterday, Chung defended himself again, saying he had been conducting opinion polls for a few dozen years, and is now working with Occupy Central organizers to promote democratic discussions and the concept of public authorization.

He even said it was a precious opportunity that he would treasure. But he stressed he's absolutely neutral personally in terms of politics.

Compared to his immediate reaction, Chung was more elaborate this time. In slamming Chung, Peter Lee proposed the eight major business chambers be invited to set up a survey fund, and have the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Chinese University of Hong Kong appointed to conduct opinion polls.

If people take this suggestion seriously, they should be forgiven because it was made directly to Zhang Dejiang, the Number 3 in the Politburo Standing Committee. That assumption was probably wrong. First, this was unlikely the message was from Beijing. Second, the business chambers were unaware of it until after Peter Lee appeared before the TV cameras. Third, he didn't follow up with further details. What Lee said was more like a personal political statement.

Since Xi Jinping took over as president, members of the National People's Congress and Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference have been asked to contribute more to the political workings.

Right at the outset of this year's session, SAR members were asked to be proactive in speaking against the opposition to win over public opinion.

There's no denying the issue chosen by Lee was topical, as Chung has been such a familiar figure in Hong Kong.

But, as a matter of fact, whoever was conducting polls to rate Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's popularity would arrive at a similar poor result.

If Chung was only accused because of the so-called "biased" outcomes concerning the CE's popularity, it would be far fetched to suggest the polls were problematic.

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