The pro-government camp in Hong Kong should set up its own organisation to conduct public opinion polls to counter surveys by the University of Hong Kong that return results unfavourable to the central and local governments, a pro-Beijing property tycoon said.
"The opposition camp has been manipulating public opinion [using HKU's public opinion programme], which is essential in fostering consensus on political reform," said Peter Lee Ka-kit standing committee member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, in a meeting yesterday with National People's Congress Chairman Zhang Dejiang. Lee is also vice-chairman of Henderson Land Development.
Setting up a body to gauge public opinion was the first step for the "patriotic camp" to turn the situation around, Lee added.
Lee accused the HKU programme of "publishing poll results that are unfavorable to the central and local governments at critical moments", which had set the ground for the opposition camp's demands.
Lee suggested that the city's eight business chambers and other pro-establishment organisations commission other universities to conduct surveys that truly reflect the public's views".
Lee's remarks were rejected by Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, director of the HKU public opinion programme, who said "it would be unwise to extend Hongkongers' concerns over the freedom of expression to the area of academic freedom".
Chung said the methodology adopted by his programme was transparent and would stand up to any academic scrutiny.
"The programme releases its surveys regularly and does not care about so-called sensitive and critical moments, or whether it favours or disfavours anybody," he said in a statement.
Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said Lee should apologise for his "ridiculous" remarks.
"You may disagree with the poll results, but please respect professional work," she said.
Chung - who has been advising the Occupy Central pro-democracy movement on how to gauge public opinion - is no stranger to criticism. In 2000, Andrew Lo Cheung-on, an aide to then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, was accused of pressuring the university to stop Chung from polling Tung's popularity.