Last week the media revealed that the Central Policy Unit (CPU) had secretly conducted a public opinion poll on the upcoming Legislative Council election.
Respondents were asked whether a candidate’s stance on Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s attempt to win re-election is a decisive factor that will influence their voting choices.
After news about this secret poll came to light, several pan-democratic lawmakers and I immediately wrote to the head of the CPU, Shiu Sin-por, and demanded that further details about this poll be released.
We demanded that he explain to the public how he could justify using taxpayers’ money to conduct a large-scale poll to serve the chief executive’s purposes.
In fact, the CPU has conducted several polls in the past that created a great deal of controversy.
For example, Leung cited the findings of a CPU poll when pitching the government’s electoral reform proposal during a student forum in 2014.
He claimed that 70 percent of the people of Hong Kong said they would turn up to vote if the chief executive was elected by one person, one vote in 2017, regardless of whether the candidates were screened by Beijing or not.
However, when I demanded the release of more information about that poll, such as exactly when it was conducted, the methodology of the survey, the sample size and details of its sampling methods, the administration refused to comply, saying the survey findings were only for internal reference and hence there was no need to make its details public.
I am dismayed at the fact that the CPU, a public advisory body funded entirely by taxpayers, has been operating behind closed doors with basically zero oversight and transparency in recent years.
Worse still, the CPU — first established in 1989 and intended as an impartial advisory body responsible for collecting public opinion and offering objective advice to the government based on its research — has, under Shiu’s leadership, gradually degenerated into Leung’s personal public relations team, responsible for hard-selling the government’s policy initiatives, sometimes even by deliberately swinging public opinion its way through the use of twisted poll findings.
In the meantime, under Leung, the expansion of the CPU’s bureaucracy and power has gone unchecked.
With the lack of public oversight and zero transparency, whether the CPU can still offer impartial advice to the government on different social issues has become highly questionable.
The public interest demands the drawing of attention to this issue, to create social pressure to put the CPU back on track.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 15.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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