The dean of Baptist University's School of Communications resigned over a scandal involving the early release of a poll on the chief executive race. But many key questions remained unanswered in a report by a review panel released yesterday.
These include why, before the survey was officially released, Henry Tang Ying-yen's campaign communications adviser contacted the school's research centre to ask about it. And why the pro-Tang Sing Tao Daily was able to report on it.
Zhao released data after 836 people had been surveyed showing Tang had narrowed the gap on Leung Chun-ying to 6.5 per cent. The final result of 1,005 people surveyed showed Leung to be 8.9 per cent more popular than Tang.
University president Professor Albert Chan Sun-chi said he and the university council accepted the report, which suggested the incident was the result of 'misjudgment' by the dean, Professor Zhao Xinshu. He said he did not know why the survey was leaked to Tang's camp, and would not say whether the university-appointed panel would continue to investigate the matter.
'I accept his resignation because I recognise that it is very difficult for him to continue to be a dean in the current situation,' Chan said.
The report did not say whether the university council's chairman, Wilfred Wong Ying-wai, who openly declared his support for Tang in September, had exerted political influence on the poll. Wong yesterday denied doing so.
Zhao also resigned as director of the HongCOMM Survey Lab - which conducted the poll - but he will remain on the teaching staff.
A source said Zhao had been allowed to stay on until his contract ended in August so that he could step down gracefully. He is on currently on leave.
In an open letter yesterday, Zhao said: 'I did not fully understand how suspicious such missteps in opinion polls can appear in the eyes of Hong Kong media and the general public.'
He said he was not aware that this was a unique election in that people's views were measured not by votes but opinion polls, which would be taken into consideration in selecting the city's next leader. Zhao, a mainlander, also said recent tensions between Hongkongers and mainlanders had magnified his wrongdoings.
His resignation was announced as a 12-page report was released on the incident yesterday by a four-person university panel, with a mathematics expert to verify the poll data. It blamed Zhao for initiating the poll too hastily. He was also faulted for ignoring the concerns of colleagues, and lacking political sensitivity. It found no evidence of political interference or an agenda, or any financial sponsorship from outside parties. It recommended better governance of the survey lab, but did not suggest Zhao be penalised.
Students, alumni and teaching staff said they were disappointed by the report and called for the inquiry to continue. 'The report has left many questions unanswered,' said Professor To Yiu-ming, a spokesman for the faculty and staff union.
Chan said it was up to individual teaching staff whether the university would conduct a popularity poll again before next month's election.