updated 20 Dec 2008, 00:59
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Fri, Dec 19, 2008
The New Paper
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Were pageant results rigged?

ONE Miss Asia contestant's votes swelled by 100,000 within an hour. Not surprisingly, the organisers decided to disregard her sudden surge of votes, reported Ming Pao.

This, however, failed to prevent one of the biggest scandals to hit the Hong Kong beauty pageant scene.

The controversy broke on Monday after an announcement to the media by Mr Linus Cheung Wing Lam, executive chairman of pageant organiser Asian Television (ATV), reported South China Morning Post.

He said an independent committee will be set up to investigate the outcome of the pageant, held on Dec 7, after it was discovered that the outcome did not tally with public voting.

It was the first time that the 20-year-old pageant did away with a panel of judges and used Internet and phone voting to decide the rankings and a subsidiary title - Miss Body Beautiful.

The winner was student Eunis Yao, 23, who secured 137,610 votes. Runner-up was student Belinda Yan, 22, on 129,416. Third was Lene Lai, 19, a model from Taiwan with 60,542 votes.

But Mr Cheung said the figures were wrong.

'This is an unacceptable issue of trust,' said Mr Cheung, who joined ATV only a few days before the beauty pageant took place.

'The number of votes (for contestants) shown on TV on 7 Dec was wrong.'

He said he apologised to the public, the staff involved in the show and legislative councillor Timothy Fok, who was invited to monitor the voting that night.

Mr Fok told Apple Daily that Mr Cheung had called him on Monday morning to explain the situation and apologise.

Said Mr Fok: 'He told me that it was an internal problem and he will investigate.'

Mr Cheung said that the discrepancy was discovered when a Miss Asia pageant evaluation meeting was held last Wednesday, during which Mr Ricky Wong, ATV chief executive, said he had discovered the possibility of discrepancy between voting and the final outcome.

Two days later, Mr Wong submitted a report to Mr Cheung after collating all the voting data from staff.

Mr Cheung said that ATV, conscious of a need to maintain its corporate image of trustworthiness, had decided it was necessary to reveal the discrepancy and carry out an investigation.

Asked if the winners would change, Mr Cheung said: 'You should know yourself.'

Comedy film-maker Vincent Kuk, one of the pageant hosts, said he was shocked to hear about the voting problems and had no idea about what had gone wrong.

He said: 'As show hosts, we only carried out the organisers' instructions. Even Mr Fok was only reading out the voting results on a piece of paper given by organisers,' Mr Kuk said.

'I did not see anything unusual happening on the night and we thought the results were acceptable because the quality of the winners was high.'

He said that he didn't think the incident would hurt the pageant's reputation.

'I thought it was a great show and let's hope that this incident will make things better next year,' he said, adding that the new voting system might have been a problem.

Returned home

Meanwhile, some of the contestants have already left Hong Kong with their prizes.

Second runner-up Lene Lai told Ming Pao that she hopes she can claim a higher position when the real results are announced.

First runner-up Belinda Yan, who had flown to Canada, conveyed the same thoughts through her agent.

Pageant winner Eunis Yao, who returned to Xi'an, China, as her visa had expired, could not be reached by press time. She had won HK$1.9 million ($360,000) worth of prizes, including her HK$1.6m tiara.

This article was first published in The New Paper on Dec 17, 2008.

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