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LCQ5: Surveys on popularity of 2012 Chief Executive potential candidates conducted by Hong Kong Baptist University

     Following is a question by the Hon Lee Wing-tat and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (February 22):


     The HongCOMM Survey Lab of the School of Communication of the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) conducted two telephone surveys on the popularity of the 2012 Chief Executive potential candidates in December 2011 and January 2012 respectively for its Hong Kong Media Transition Project. The way by which the January 2012 survey results were released has aroused concerns among members of the University, the media and the public. An Investigation Panel comprising staff members and an alumnus of the University was subsequently set up by HKBU, and its report (the Report) was released on February 6 this year. It has been reported that: the Report failed to address the discontent among the teaching staff and students of HKBU as well as the public; the Investigation Panel did not examine if there was any political interference and its findings were merely based on the one-sided story from the persons being investigated; and the investigation was not conducted in an open, fair and just manner and failed to address public concerns.  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) whether they will set up an independent investigation panel to thoroughly investigate the aforesaid incident; if not, whether there are specific and effective means to ensure that the academic and research institutes of tertiary institutions are not subject to external pressure or political interference, so as to prevent their teaching and research work from being influenced; and

(b) how they ensure that teaching staff unions of tertiary institutions will not be subject to any pressure from the institutions concerned and can fully express their views when they criticise the management of the institutions, so as to protect academic freedom?


Acting Madam President,

(a) Academic freedom is an important social value treasured by Hong Kong and is a cornerstone of our higher education sector. The HKSAR Government is vigilant in upholding academic freedom and institutional autonomy, as well as ensuring a free academic atmosphere, in strict accordance with the Basic Law, so that academics can pursue their scholarly activities such as research and surveys in accordance with their own will and aptitude.

     With regard to the public concern about the manner in which the HongCOMM Survey Lab of the School of Communication of HKBU announced the results of an opinion poll, I would like to point out that the incident is entirely within HKBU's autonomy and hence an internal matter of the University. We note that HKBU has set up an Investigation Panel comprising both internal and external members to investigate into the matter.  The Panel has already completed its task and its report has been unanimously endorsed by the Council of the University.

     Academic freedom is adequately safeguarded by the existing legal and institutional framework. Academic activities will not be affected by external pressure and political interference. Precisely out of the respect for academic freedom and institutional autonomy, and taking into account the fact that HKBU has already investigated into the incident, the Government has no plan nor is appropriate to interfere in HKBU's handling of this internal incident, including setting up an inquiry committee to look into the matter.

(b) Institutions have autonomy in staff appointment matters.

     Under the existing legislation and institutional framework, the staff of tertiary institutions may make use of a number of channels to voice their opinions. In general, they are represented in the Councils, Senates and various committees of the institutions by members elected by them.

     Furthermore, Article 27 of the Basic Law provides that Hong Kong residents have "the right and freedom to form and join trade unions, and to strike". Similar to other employees in Hong Kong, the staff members of the institutions are protected by the Employment Ordinance, which provides that every employee has the right to form a trade union and take part in union activities. The ordinance also stipulates that an employer must not prevent or deter an employee from exercising the right to take part in the activities of a trade union, or dismiss, penalise or discriminate against an employee for exercising such a right. Therefore, staff associations of the institutions, as well as their office bearers and members, are adequately protected by law in their freedom to express their views.

Ends/Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:13


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