Liaison office man airspre-election polling curbs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am


A senior official of the central government's liaison office who previously accused some Hong Kong pollsters of having a political agenda has floated the idea of regulating opinion polls in the run-up to elections.

In a commentary published yesterday, Hao Tiechuan, director of the liaison office's publicity, culture and sports department, urged Hong Kong to look at international practices, although he stopped short of saying the city should copy places such as Taiwan, which bans polls in the 10 days before an election.

Hao said some countries regulated polls 'to prevent political parties or candidates strategically using opinion polls to influence the voting'. He said France banned publication of poll results the week before an election, though in fact the blackout was reduced to 24 hours in 2002.

'This legislation is aimed at leaving room for electors to calmly contemplate and to be free from influence by opinion polls for a while before voting,' he wrote.

Albert Ho Chun-yan, the pan-democratic candidate for chief executive, questioned Hao's motives for writing the article, as it was published soon after Leung Chun-ying saw his popularity slide after rival Henry Tang Ying-yen accused him of seeking to curb protests nine years ago. Leung is now rumoured to be Beijing's choice for chief executive.

Ho said polling rules should only be considered when universal suffrage was introduced. The city's new leader will be chosen by a 1,193-strong Election Committee.

Hao said he had filed the article 10 days ago, before Leung's popularity started to slide, and had no comment on whether he believed the city's polling practices were healthy.

Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, said new rules on polls would need a broad consensus. She did not believe Hao's article was linked to calls from pan-democrats for Election Committee members to cast blank votes, a tactic which could lead to a stalemate and a rerun of the election.

In January, Hao wrote that some Hong Kong pollsters 'conduct surveys that serve the interests of certain political parties' and 'aim to influence public opinion'.

Baptist University's dean of communications was forced to resign last month over the release of early results from a survey before interviews had been completed.