Young Hongkongers do not trust the government, but few are radical, study shows

Chinese University research finds those who get their public affairs information from social media are more likely to distrust officials

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 11:20pm

Only a small group of Hong Kong’s youth is “radical” in their approach towards politics despite close to two-thirds of them being dissatisfied and not trusting the government, a study by the Chinese University has found.

The survey also revealed that those who get their public affairs information from social media were more likely to express dissatisfaction and distrust towards the government, and researchers urged the government to engage more with youngsters through platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

The poll, which interviewed 829 Hong Kong Cantonese-speaking residents aged 15 to 29 via their mobile phones, found that 65.7 per cent of them were very dissatisfied or not quite satisfied with the performance of the government. Likewise, the level of trust was low, professor Anthony Fung Ying-him pointed out, with 63 per cent of respondents expressing distrust.

But researchers pointed out that, contrary to popular belief, that did not translate into many teenagers being radical.

Rise of the radicals will plunge the legislature, and Hong Kong, into more chaos

Associate professor Wilson Wong Wai-ho cited the “extremely low” political tolerance of political radicals among those surveyed and their relatively lower political participation.

Around 60 per cent of the respondents found it objectionable for political radicals to profess their stance publicly, compared with only around 26.9 per cent and about 23.1 per cent feeling it was objectionable for sex workers and homosexuals to strive for their rights publicly, he said.

While 61.5 per cent of those eligible voted in the recent Legislative Council elections, researchers noted 44.4 per cent of respondents had never participated in any political activity offline. Some activities had a higher figure, such as 84.9 per cent indicating they had never signed a paper petition and 71.5 per cent saying they had never taken part in a march or demonstration in the last 12 months.

“Our society has an impression that teenagers are problematic because they are very radical, but we feel that it is an unfounded concern,” said professor Stephen Chiu Wing-kai.

He pointed out that most teenagers just post comments online and that other similar studies found that were very active in taking actions are in small numbers.

Poll reveals trust in Hong Kong’s news media has hit 10-year low, HKU study shows

Among youngsters who get their public affairs information from social media, 81.4 per cent and 77.7 expressed dissatisfaction and distrust respectively towards the government, compared with just 53.7 per cent and 51.1 per cent of respondents who get such information from other means, such as through websites and television programmes, unsatisfied and not trusting the government.

Chiu explained that most of the news of the government on social media was negative, and therefore influenced the views of those who get their public affairs information from social media.

Wong also pointed out that only a small number of government departments have social media accounts. With youth being active on social media, he urged the government to use social media platforms to communicate with youths.

But he said that the government needs to be aware of agreed rules and ways of using such platforms, pointing out that while the police have a Facebook account, they often delete comments, leading to the displeasure of teenagers.