A Hong Kong pollster said it has cancelled the release of survey results on Hongkongers’ views of the Tiananmen crackdown, citing “suggestions” made by “relevant government department(s).”

File Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The findings of the annual survey, conducted by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI), were originally scheduled to be announced on Tuesday.

PORI published a statement hours before the slated release, saying that it was advised by “relevant government department(s)” to cancel the sharing of its June 4th Anniversary Survey Report based on a “risk assessment.”

In response to HKFP, PORI said it was neither told – nor did it enquire – whether the “risk assessment” was related to the national security law or the sedition law. The pollster added that it respected the assessment despite not knowing its details or necessarily sharing the same viewpoint.

Asked if it would hold the survey next year, PORI said it had been in the process of planning future operations when the government flagged its “risk assessment.”

Police in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2023, the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
Police in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2023, the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“We may continue to conduct some of our tracking surveys, and/or keep some of them for academic or private reference only, and/or stop some of the surveys,” PORI said.

It added that it had not decided “where to put the June 4th anniversary survey.”

HKFP has reached out to the Information Services Department and the police public relations team for comment.

The police said in it reply that safeguarding national security was the obligation of all people and organisations in Hong Kong, calling PORI’s decision “not to release any information with national security risks” a “responsible act.”

The June 4th Anniversary Survey Report, comprising findings from the questionnaire, has been released yearly since 1993. The survey was previously carried out by a public opinion programme under the University of Hong Kong, until the programme separated from the university and became an independent entity, PORI, in 2019.

Since 2020, PORI has surveyed around 1,000 Hong Kong residents aged 18 or above each year about their views towards the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing.

tiananmen vigil victoria park
Victoria Park on June 4, 2019, the last time the vigil was held. File Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Survey results from 2020 to 2022 showed that the majority Hongkongers considered the crackdown a mishandling by the central government, and most were in support of the vindication of the victims.

The Tiananmen crackdown occurred on June 4, 1989, ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army dispersed protesters in Beijing.

Sunday marked the 34th anniversary of the crackdown. Police officers deployed en masse in Causeway Bay until late at night and took 23 people away for investigation, including activists and a former chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association. One woman was arrested for obstructing police officers.

The city held an annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park every year until the Covid-19 pandemic and the passing of Beijing’s national security law. From Saturday to Monday, part of the park hosted a patriotic carnival organised by pro-Beijing groups.

Electric candles for sale in a Hong Kong shop on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
Electric candles for sale in a Hong Kong shop on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The PORI office in Wong Chuk Hang was raided twice by the police in July 2020 and January 2021. Officers requested Chung Kim-Wah, the then-deputy executive director of PORI, to assist an unspecified investigation after democrats were arrested over their organisation and participation in unofficial Legislative Council primary elections. The primaries are at the centre of the city’s largest national security case, which has seen 47 people charged and facing up to life imprisonment.

In 2021, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said it could not rule out the possibility that PORI may breach the law by publishing results of its surveys on elections. The pollster has held questionnaires ahead of Legislative Council elections asking how voters intend to cast their ballots.

The polling institute has also previously come under fire from the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper for its “anti-China” opinion surveys on legislative polls.

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Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.