"Three surveys, one conclusion or many?
What the public really want from constitutional reform in Hong Kong"

 

Foreign Correspondents' Club Press Conference
Monday, December 19, 2005
 

Presentation Invitation issued by the Organizers

 

Three university based study groups have conducted polls on the constitutional reform proposals and released their findings to press, public and politicians. Some pick and choose one result to emphasize over another, and confusion about what the public really is saying grows instead of shrinks. Have you ever wanted to get all three survey groups in a room at one time and have them explain what they found and what differences they have in their results, and why? Here's your chance to ask them questions.

 

Michael DeGolyer, Hong Kong Transition Project at Baptist University, and Robert Chung, Public Opinion Programme at University of Hong Kong, will speak on their respective findings and the use of public opinion polls in Hong Kong at a press conference at the FCC on Monday at 10 AM.

 

Please RSVP with the FCC reception at (Tel) 2521 1511, (Fax) 2868 4092 or email to: [email protected]

 

Presentation Notes of Robert Chung

 

Two basic questions need to be answered

  1. What do people really want?
  2. Should people get what they want?
 

What do people really want?

  • Three university based study groups have conducted polls on the constitutional reform proposals and released their findings to press, public and politicians. Some pick and choose one result to emphasize over another.
  • The government conducts its own polls and selectively releases its findings to the press without giving the methodological details.
  • Political parties and partisan researchers also produced polls without revealing methodological details.
  • The media publishes all polls indiscriminately, without asking the basic questions about polls.
  • Some media go further to produce their own IVR (Interactive Voice Response) polls and treat them as scientific.
  • As a result, the question of "what do people want" is seldom answered scientifically.
 

Should people get what they want?

  • Under universal suffrage, people always get the leaders they want, and get rid of the leaders they do not want.
  • Using referendums, people always have the final say of what they want, and what they do not want.
  • But even under full democracy, people do not always get everything they want, but scientific polling and independent media are respectable means to show what people really want. Such means are not well developed in Hong Kong.
  • There is no established ways to collect and collate public opinion during any public consultations. As a result, public opinion are more often than not distorted and twisted to suit government needs.
 

The consultation process

  • Way back on 17 January 2004, at an RTHK-HKU seminar on constitutional reform, I have suggested that the government should learn their lessons from the 1987 and 2003 consultations (on constitutional reform and Basic Law Article 23) and conducts its consultation of the "political reform" in two stages:
    • The first stage to emphasize the directions and social basis of constitutional reform;
    • The second stage to concentrate on concrete proposals, preferably with four to eight in number, and asks people to choose among them.
  • I also suggested the government to publish consultation papers at each stage, together with clear explanations of how public opinion would be collected and collated.
  • The government has not listened, and continued to twist public opinion to suit its own need.
 

The way forward

  • Professional ethics and standards should be established in Hong Kong to safeguard the proper reporting of opinion polls. The government and the media share the responsibility to take the lead.
  • All consultations exercises should follow very clear guidelines, especially on the collection, collation and interpretation of public opinion. Independent agencies or departments should be entrusted with the responsibility to conduct the consultation.
  • Alternative channels of public opinion gathering should be developed in society to cater for different peoples' needs for expressing opinion. Civil referendums should be encouraged.


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