THE pollster who claimed he had been warned by Tung Chee-hwa to stop conducting polls on government credibility offered yesterday to apologise to the Chief Executive. Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, of the University of Hong Kong, also agreed Mr Tung might be 'innocent', in an apparent U-turn following mounting calls for him to clarify his allegations. He said yesterday he was told by a third party 'close to Mr Tung' on two informal occasions that the Chief Executive did not want to see polls about his popularity. 'One possibility was someone might have got such an impression from Mr Tung and tried to convey to me through the third party. The third party is not a small fry. And the message was clear,' Dr Chung said. The political analyst also offered to disclose his source to Mr Tung in private. Dr Chung's backdown came yesterday after Chief Secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang said he owed the public an explanation because his claims had damaged the Government's credibility and integrity. In a South China Morning Post column on Friday, Dr Chung wrote: 'Last year, more than once, I was given a clear message from Mr Tung via a special channel that my polling activities were not welcomed.' Mr Tung categorically denied the allegation. Yesterday, Dr Chung referred to the special channel as a 'third party' in a Metro Radio interview. He also said Mr Tung's prompt denials led him to believe Mr Tung had not tried to stop his polling activities. The pollster conceded he might have misunderstood the warning as having been ordered by Mr Tung. He said on an ATV interview yesterday: 'Mr Tung has clearly stated his position and probably the third party had misunderstood Mr Tung's meaning. If Mr Tung likes, I am pleased to sort out the entire incident with him, and if Mr Tung has not done anything [to intervene], I am prepared to apologise to Mr Tung.' Dr Chung said he was a cautious person but admitted he had not tried to ask Mr Tung in person for clarification, although he claimed to have been warned twice. He said in a statement last night he had no intention of damaging the Government's credibility and he made it public because he wanted government reassurances that 'freedom of academic research' would be supported. Dr Chung said he would not make public the identity of the 'third party' but would tell Mr Tung in private if Mr Tung asked him. He would also consider handing in a report to the university on request. Mrs Chan said Dr Chung's allegations had damaged the integrity of Mr Tung and the Government. 'I have to reiterate that the Government attaches much importance to academic freedom and will not interfere with any polls or academic research under any circumstances. 'Mr Tung had already mentioned that he had not asked, or authorised anyone to ask, any institution to stop taking any polls. [Dr Chung's] claims have undermined Mr Tung's image and the credibility of the Government. I hope he can clarify to the public.' Executive Councillor Antony Leung Kam-chung said Dr Chung might have heard something but misunderstood it to be a message from the Chief Executive. Mr Tung's special adviser, Paul Yip Kwok-wah, said popularity polls were a good indicator of government performance and he did not believe Mr Tung would like to see them stopped. Dr Chung is director of the public opinion programme at Hong Kong University's Journalism and Media Studies Centre.