A senior member of Hong Kong’s leading independent pollster has left for the UK, calling the city a place where one may “no longer live normally and without intimidation.”

Chung Kim-wah at a PORI press conference. Photo: PORI, via YouTube screenshot.

“After balancing different factors and considerations, I have no choice but to make this decision,” Chung Kim-wah, deputy chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday night.

He said he would live abroad for “a period of time.”

His announcement came two days after he last appeared at a PORI press conference regarding a poll into public awareness on cannabis products in Hong Kong.

Chung Kim-wah (second from right) at a PORI press conference on April 22, 2022. Photo: PORI, via YouTube screenshot.

Chung joined PORI after retiring from his position as assistant social sciences professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, according to his biography on the pollster’s website.

Robert Chung, the president and chief executive officer of PORI, told HKFP that Chung will continue as deputy chief executive officer until the end of April, when his contract ends.

He joins a growing number of activists and scholars who have left Hong Kong due to political reasons.

Broader skies, fresher air

In his lengthy statement on Facebook, Chung said he had not initially considered emigrating.

“I was born and raised in Hong Kong. A vast majority of my loved ones are in Hong Kong. I view Hong Kong as the place that cultivated me, and since young, I have made it my ambition to contribute to Hong Kong and improve society,” he wrote.

“Now, I can only hope that the skies will be broader, the air fresher… and that I don’t have to think about whether the red lines that move arbitrarily will one day target me.”

He added that he did not want his friends and loved ones – especially his elderly parents – to worry about him. “I am apologetic that I left without saying goodbye, and I regret that I couldn’t say farewell to you all,” Chung said.

In an article published on Sunday night, Chung told Ming Pao that that he had met with national security police, but did not explain further. When asked by the newspaper if this was his reason for leaving Hong Kong, Chung referred back to his Facebook post describing his departure as “fleeing the chaos of the Qin Dynasty” – an expression alluding to the turmoil of China’s first empire.

HKFP has reached out to Chung for comment.

State media attacks

PORI has been attacked by pro-establishment media.

The group regularly holds opinion polls studying the popularity of the chief executive and the government’s policies and proposals, such as the March budget address and the ongoing anti-epidemic restrictions.

The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In December, the People’s Daily – the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper – blasted PORI over its opinion surveys relating to the “patriots only” Legislative Council elections, accusing it of using “so-called ‘public opinion’ to hijack society.” PORI’s surveys indicated that a record low percentage of the population intended to vote in the elections, the first since a Beijing-imposed overhaul that effectively barred opposition candidates from running.

“The manipulated ‘polls’ has no ‘public opinion’ to speak of,” the People’s Daily editorial read, claiming that PORI had manipulated survey samples and set arbitrary statistical standards.

Chung told HKFP at the time that the accusations were “nonsense” and that the team would continue to release its findings as scheduled.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.