Bernard Chan wants public policy consultations via social networks

Bernard Chan wants discussions of new policies via social networks in order to expand public participation and reduce number of meetings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 3:21am

An executive councillor has urged the government to extend its consultation on new policies to online social networks to reach more people and avoid calls for endless discussions.

"It is foreseeable that the public will call for consultation repeatedly," Bernard Chan said, citing projects that may face fierce public opposition such as new towns in the northeast New Territories and proposed reclamation for new developments.

He told a business audience that the current approach, which asks people to comment on a formed proposal instead of asking what they wanted, could no longer work.

"We need to review it seriously. We can no longer rely on advisory bodies or district councils only," he said in a luncheon speech on Hong Kong's sustainability.

His comments came ahead of a consultation forum in Sheung Shui on Saturday on new town developments in the northeast New Territories that is expected to draw about 6,000 people.

The forum, originally to have been held last month, was cancelled amid chaos when hundreds of people complained on the spot that the venue was too small for public participation.

As with the controversy over national education, some have asked for the development plan to be shelved while others have demanded the consultation be restaged.

To accommodate more people, the forum has been moved outdoors to a lawn in Po Wan Road, the Planning Department announced yesterday. The previous venue was a secondary school.

Activist Chan Kim-ching, who often mobilises support through Facebook and other networks, said he and his followers would ask the officials at the forum to shelve the development plan.

He said there were fears that it was aimed at mainland visitors and investors instead of meeting the needs of local people, although this has not been mentioned by the government in four years of consultation.

Bernard Chan said the government's voice might no longer be heard in traditional ways.

"Youngsters no longer receive government messages from written material or TV channels. We should consider, in addition to the traditional ways, using social media, like online networks, to allow their participation," he said.

"Very often, I find that they are in their own world and outsiders don't understand what they discuss in their online forums, in which users may not accurately understand the facts.

"I'm not just talking about opening a Facebook account but to follow what has been discussed in their circles."