SCMP Saturday, September 9, 2000

'Cultural Revolution' fear


Asking the Chief Executive's aide Andrew Lo Cheung-on to resign over the Robert Chung affair without any evidence would be no different from the Cultural Revolution, a key pro-Beijing figure said yesterday.
National People's Congress Standing Committee member Tsang Hin-chi said discussions could be held on whether Mr Lo had dealt with the affair improperly, but he should not be asked to resign. "Unless we all are celestial beings and 100 per cent correct all the time, we can't ask Mr Lo to resign. Otherwise, we would all have to resign, too," he said.
He also said it might not be a coincidence that the controversy had erupted amid recent calls to dump Tung Chee-hwa. Mr Tsang cast doubt on why Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, the director of the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Programme, did not make public until July the political pressure exerted on him to stop polls on the Chief Executive's popularity.
"[There were two meetings with university leaders] last January [1999] and last November. Why did he make that open only in July when there were calls to dump Mr Tung?" he said.
Comparing the saga with the Cultural Revolution, Mr Tsang said it was not reasonable to ask the parties involved to resign without evidence. "They'd better make public all the evidence if there is any evidence. They can't ask those involved to step down just because someone said they are to blame," he said."It will be terrible without making things clear. Otherwise, it will be no different from the Cultural Revolution."
Mr Tsang urged Dr Chung to reveal more details of his surveys, including the questions and interviewees polled. He suggested a polling body be set up jointly by the Government, business sector and pro-Beijing groups.
An independent panel report concluded that university vice-chancellor Professor Cheng Yiu-chung and pro-vice-chancellor Professor Wong Siu-lun had tried to stop Dr Chung's polls. The pair resigned on Wednesday. The report called Mr Lo a "poor and untruthful witness" and said there had been a conversation between Mr Lo and Professor Cheng on January 6, 1999, after which the move to "inhibit academic freedom" had been made.
Separately, university council chairman Yang Ti Liang yesterday denied there was any under-the-table deal between him and the former vice-chancellor when he met him just before the resignation was announced.
The council sparked a furore among students and teaching staff for just noting, rather than accepting or rejecting, the panel's report on Wednesday. Mr Yang dismissed suggestions he had accepted Professor Cheng's resignation in exchange for this move.
Gloria Chang Wan-ki, president of the students' union, has called for a revamp of the council, as the 52-member body is dominated by external members.
But Mr Yang said the council had performed well, adding that he hoped the public would look at the matter calmly. He declined to say if he agreed to a review of the council's composition. "Some say the ratio is not correct. It's best for all to calm down before looking at the matter," he said.