Has Hong Kong government's cutback on policy address print copies been justified?
Government's policy to reduce the number of paper copies of chief executive's blueprint raises questions about how many actually read it
Gary Cheung, Fanny W. Y. Fung and Tanna Chong
The government is printing fewer copies of the chief executive's policy address these days.
The move raises the question: is the administration's effort encouraging people to read the policy blueprint in a more environmentally friendly way, or are they just not reading it at all.
The department also provides leaflets which summarise the key points of the address.
People may also read the full text of the speech online or download it from the government's website.
The biggest paper-saving move in the past six years came in 2010, when the number of copies printed was reduced by almost a third, to 60,441.
A government source said the reason for printing fewer copies in recent years was "to respond to citizens' calls for environmental protection".
A total of 56,900 copies of Leung Chun-ying's latest policy address speech on Wednesday have been printed.
While this amounted to a slight increase - about 0.3 per cent - on last year, a government spokesman said the change was due to an increase in the number of copies requested by bureaus and departments.
He maintained that the environmentally friendly policy remained unchanged.
However, official figures on visits to the government's policy address website suggest that printing fewer copies may not necessarily be encouraging people to read the blueprint online as an alternative.
In 2010, when 27,193 fewer copies of the speech were printed compared with the previous year, the website did record an increase in annual visits of 37,390.
But there has been no conclusive trend, as a further reduction of paper copies by 4,383 in 2011 coincided with a drop in website visits by an even larger number - 9,302.
Roy Tam Hoi-pong, chairman of the green group Green Sense, said it sounded reasonable to print some 50,000 copies for distribution around the city.
He also noted that the policy address was printed with environmentally friendly ink on recycled paper.
"The quantity does sound reasonable enough and it is hard to ask the government to print even fewer copies," Tam said.
"I think the most important thing is to allocate the booklets to appropriate distribution points to ensure that they are given to people who want to read them, instead of just being put aside."
Political commentator James Sung Lap-kung of City University said the government should step up its use of new media in light of the shrinking print circulation.
Acknowledging the initiative was environmentally friendly, Sung also noted that the reduction in the number of copies could be due to the public's loss of interest in the chief executive's policy blueprint.
"There was less media coverage … I also found fewer distribution points at major MTR stations on the day of the address," Sung said.
"The government should make better use of the new media to attract more attention, especially among young people," he said.
The academic added officials should strive for more media exposure both before and after the address, and tailor-make promotion strategies for different sectors of the public.