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JULY 31, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 4

COVER: The Triumph of Style
We don't want more; we don't even want better. We want things whose looks can kill. A new generation of designers brings style to everything from toothbrushes to computers

JAPAN: Once Were Giants
A week after the fall of Sogo, the Seibu department store chain runs into financial trouble. The good news: Japan may finally have learned that propping up ailing behemoths is a bad idea
Spilled Milk: A food scare points to regulatory apathy

CHINA: Muzzle Defense
Spooked by rising social unrest, Beijing tries to silence critics
Hong Kong: Did the government lean on a pollster?

CINEMA: Show's Over
An era ends with the closing of the last Chinese movie theater in New York City's Chinatown



TRAVEL WATCH: How to See Paradise with the Help of a Paddle

Threatening the Messenger

Intellectual crackdowns don't happen in Hong Kong. But if you believe Robert Chung, director of the Public Opinion Program at the University of Hong Kong, they may have begun. Chung, a trained psephologist, conducts polls for the university's journalism department. Among other things, he tracks public perception of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. In his latest poll, 34.4% of those surveyed said they were dissatisfied with the performance of Tung's government. That compares to a disapproval rating of less than 15% three years back.

And that, Chung says, stirred deep dissatisfaction within the government. Chung claims he received a warning via a university vice-chancellor and his deputy to stop the polling or face a cut-off in funds. The message, he says, was from Tung, who also happens to be chancellor of the government-financed school.

Tung quickly denied the charge but failed to quell the controversy. Vice-chancellor Patrick Cheng, who also serves as an adviser to Beijing on Hong Kong matters, said last week that he had been asked by a member of Tung's staff about the polls but issued no ultimatum to Chung. The aide, Andrew Lo, also denied wrongdoing—and further rejected charges that he had asked local property tycoons to pull their ads from a newspaper critical of Tung. The university has begun an investigation into the Chung affair, but the student union has called for a more independent inquiry and last week held a 16-hour sit-in outside the vice-chancellor's home. Chung's poll isn't the only one showing a steep dive in the Chief Executive's popularity—and the government's handling of the matter may ensure that the trend continues.

—Reported by Wendy Kan/Hong Kong

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