I'm in the dark on poll call, Tang says
Simpson Cheung and Ada Lee
Chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen says he does not know - and does not care - which media organisation prompted his campaigners to phone the research team behind a controversial Baptist University survey last month.
A representative of Tang's office called a research assistant to ask about the opinion poll on January 13 - before Sing Tao Daily reported exclusively on the results the next day - a university panel confirmed in a 12-page report released on Monday after a nine-day internal investigation.
Professor Zhao Xinshu, who headed the university's HongCOMM Survey Lab that conducted the study, resigned from it and as dean of the school of communication on Monday, but remains on the teaching staff. He is now on three weeks' leave.
Zhao's resignation means the loss of a HK$6,000 monthly allowance, but he will still be paid at least HK$120,000 a month for teaching just one subject and supervising three research students, sources familiar with the matter said. A spokesman for the faculty and staff union, To Yiu-ming, urged the university to provide an explanation to taxpayers.
Tang said his campaign communications adviser, Lucy Chan Wai-yee, called the research assistant because she had received a media enquiry about the survey, which she had been unaware of. 'I do not know which media organisation it is, and I don't care which one it is,' he said.
The report said Zhao was keen to publish the survey outcome, which showed Tang had narrowed the popularity gap on rival Leung Chun-ying to 6.5 per cent, as it was 'newsworthy'. Chan's call came between 7pm and 8pm on January 13 - before the survey lab published the results online at 9pm, the report found. The next day, the results were reported only by Sing Tao Daily.
'I'm now completely transparent. There is no more information I can provide. What I am saying here must be fact. Do you think I would say anything that is not fact?' Tang said.
A Chinese newspaper quoted an anonymous source as saying Zhao had allegedly had a meal with Leung before starting the poll in haste.
Reacting to the allegation, Leung said he did not know Zhao and had not eaten with him. He said the university's report failed to touch on the research centre's link with external organisations. 'All concerned parties should say what they know.'
Sing Tao would not comment.
Leung said on Monday that the university was welcome to approach him for any further investigation. But Baptist University president Professor Albert Chan Sun-chi, who could not explain why the survey had been leaked to Tang's camp, did not say whether the probe would continue.
Students plan further action - possibly a sit-in - against Chan to urge him to continue to investigate and to oust Zhao from the school. They were unhappy that Chan reportedly blamed a student representative for 'seeking media exposure' when he presented a petition to him on Monday.