Legislative Council of Hong Kong

Social media becomes the new battleground for Hong Kong’s political parties

Lawmakers host their own shows and feature in videos on Facebook in attempt to consolidate community support

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 8:16am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 May, 2017, 9:14am

With the main elections over, political parties are switching their battleground to social ­media, aiming to widen their reach in the community and ­consolidate their support base.

Among those leading the way is the Democratic Party, which is launching its own broadcasting channel this summer, but its focus will not be just politics.

“The idea is to provide a new way for the community to understand more about our lawmakers and district councillors,” Kelvin Lai King-wai, head of the party’s creative media division, said.

“Only one programme will be on politics and the rest will be about leisure, beauty, heart-to-heart talk shows, and features about the 18 districts in Hong Kong.”

It would not be difficult to get talkative figures, Lai said, because some party members had been hosting their own online radio shows elsewhere.

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Young lawmakers, such as popular romantic ­fiction writer Roy Kwong Chun-yu and former graft-buster Lam Cheuk-ting, and former chairmen Albert Ho Chun-yan and Lee Wing-tat would be among the hosts.

There will be fewer vote-canvassing activities at community level in future as the battlefront will switch to online. We will have a headache in few years if we do nothing now
Chan Hok-fung

The studio will be in the party’s branch office at an industrial building in Cheung Sha Wan.

On Facebook, the leading ­online platform for political views, the most popular lawmaker is “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, who has drawn more than 220,000 “likes” to his pages. The League of Social Democrats, to which Leung belongs, has 89,000 “likes”.

Coming second in the “likes” stakes is People Power with 54,880, and the Democrats rank a distant third with some 38,000 .

Clement So York-kee, journalism and communication professor at Chinese University, said radical parties had in the past relied more on social media ­because they may not have ­enjoyed as much coverage in the mainstream media as the leading parties.

“But now as all young people – and more and more middle-aged and old people – read news on the internet, it will be a trend for all parties to switch more resources on this front,” he said.

While online “likes” may not necessarily translate into votes at elections, social media at least served the purpose of consolidating the support base, So said.

In the pro-establishment camp, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong is also catching up fast in the communication battle. ­Secretary general Chan Hok-fung said the party set up a social media team a year ago after lagging in online publicity during the 2015 district council elections and a Legislative Council by-election.

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“There will be fewer vote-canvassing activities at community level in future as the battlefront will switch to online. We will have a headache in few years if we do nothing now,” Chan said.

“We are now trying to give it a boost again, learning from other parties, as the growth in viewers has slowed.”

The “learning” involved being aggressive and making sarcastic posts about the gaffes of rivals.

The DAB team, comprising five party leaders and 10 hired members of staff, also covers most party press conferences with live feeds and produces videos of lawmakers discussing policies.

It has managed to raise its number of Facebook “likes” from around 3,000 last year to more than 29,000. Four of its lawmakers are also among the five pro-Beijing members whose pages are the most “liked”.

Civic Party chief executive Au Yeung Chi-fei said while it did not have a dedicated social media team, its lawmakers would occasionally collaborate on video projects for policy topics.

A recent four-minute video, featuring three of its lawmakers and independent Edward Yiu Chung-yim going to work by ­bicycle, MTR and car, called on the government to make the city more friendly for cyclists.

It ­received more than 380,000 views.

The party has also produced some light-hearted videos for its annual fundraising dinner on ­Friday.

Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam