Dr. Robert Chung (Chinese: 鍾庭耀; Jyutping: Zung1 Ting4-jiu6) is a Hong Kong academic. He is president and chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, an independent institute since May 2019 and the successor organisation of the Public Opinion Programme (POP) of the University of Hong Kong, of which he was long-time head.
In 2000, Chung wrote an academic article stating that he felt pressure to stop conducting public opinion research polls. Later known as the 'Robert Chung affair', his article showed that freedom of speech was still alive in Hong Kong.
Education and career
Chung graduated from Diocesan Boys' School. He obtained his bachelor's degree, Master of Philosophy in Sociology and PhD Degree from The University of Hong Kong. His fields of research interest include electoral studies, political culture, public opinion, rural politics, mobility studies, media performance, youth culture and tradition in modernity.
He joined the Social Sciences Research Centre of the University of Hong Kong when it was established in 1987. In 1991, he set up the POP within the centre and began to study the development of public opinion in Hong Kong. To match the development of the university, Chung and his POP team was transferred to the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the university on 1 May 2000, and then back to the Faculty of Social Sciences on 1 January 2002.
The programme regularly conducts independent surveys, covers media development, and launches electoral studies, policy issues, and youth studies. Under his leadership, the programme is famous for being impartial and professional, and is a highly respected public opinion study programme in the region. Its studies are widely covered in mass media and frequently cited in academic publications.
Chung has written numerous articles on public opinion and social surveys published in various journals and periodicals, and is the Chief Editor of the monthly POP newsletter, POP Express, and of the HKU POP Site.
In addition, Chung is a member of the Television Programme Advisory Panel of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) and also of the Television Programme Appreciation Index Research Panel. From 1993 to 1994, Chung served as a part-time community panellist of the Central Policy Unit of the Hong Kong Government. He then became a part-time member of the Central Policy Unit between 1994 and 1999. Between 1997 and 2003, he served as a member of the Community Research Sub-committee of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Community Relations of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), and between 1998 and 2003, as a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Community Relations.
Internationally, he has been the Hong Kong representative at the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) for a number of years. From 2006 to 2008, Chung was the elected Secretary-Treasurer of WAPOR. He was elected as WAPOR president for 2023–2024. He is also a member of the editorial board of the International Journal of Public Opinion Research.
Issues concerning academic freedom
In the summer of 2000, he sparked a controversy over the alleged government interference in his Public Opinion Programme. He alleged that he had received political pressure from Chief Executive of Hong Kong Tung Chee-hwa through Vice-Chancellor Cheng Yiu-chung and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Wong Siu-lun to discontinue his public opinion polls on Tung and his government.
Although the allegations were denied by Tung and HKU, controversy erupted over the question of political interference in academic freedom. HKU set up a three-member panel led by Justice Noel Power to investigate Chung's claims. After 11 days of open hearings in August, the panel concluded that there were what it called "covert attempts" to pressure Chung into discontinuing his polls. The panel concluded that Chung was "an honest witness who was telling the truth in relation to the matters he is complaining about", but "neither Lo [The Chief Executive's Senior Special Assistant] nor the vice chancellor disclosed the full and truthful extent of what was said in [the] meetings". The saga ended with the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong – Cheng Yiu-chung and Wong Siu-lun respectively – just before the University Council met on 9 September to vote on whether or not to accept the panel's report. At the end, Chung's Public Opinion Programme continued to function and went from strength to strength in the years following, becoming arguably Hong Kong's most authoritative source of public opinion information and assessment.
Alongside his academic study, Chung is also a firm supporter on Hall Education. Living in St. John's College of the university during his undergraduate and postgraduate study, he later became the residential tutor in Old Halls and Swire Hall. He has been the Warden of R. C. Lee Hall from 1992. Although he said that he had learned a lot from St. John's College, he thinks, apart from the traditional hall education in the university, which primarily advocates collectivism, focuses on inter-hall competition and creates greater social pressure among residents, there are other possible ways to conduct education in halls. Such belief is reflected by the past and current Motto of R. C. Lee Hall, respectively Hall with a Mission and Liberty with Responsibility, Unity in Diversity.
Chung is also very keen on sports. While field hockey is his favourite sport, he has passion for track and field, swimming, softball, volleyball and windsurfing, and participated in cricket, lacrosse, tennis, squash, and badminton inter-hall competitions in the university . He has been coach of the hockey teams of the university and his hall.
In addition to sport, Chung is interested in astronomy.
- 港大民意研究計劃 將脫離港大獨立 改稱香港民意研究所 續由鍾庭耀帶領. Stand News (in Chinese (Hong Kong)). 23 April 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
- "About Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI)". Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute. c. 2019. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
- May, Tiffany; Ramzy, Austin (10 July 2020). "Hong Kong Police Raid Pollster on Eve of Pro-Democracy Camp Primary". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 26 November 2020.
- Peterson. Preserving Academic Freedom in Hong Kong: Lessons from the 'Robert Chung Affair' (PDF). pp. Vol 30 Part 2 Page 166.
- Landler, Mark (7 September 2000). "In Sharp Debate on Freedoms, Top Hong Kong Educators Resign". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 April 2010.