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Carrie Lam

Hong Kong public likes social media move by Carrie Lam

The city leader’s first Facebook Live session may have been met with “angry face” emojis, but it broke down barriers and stirred reactions to her policy speech

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 8:15pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 August, 2018, 10:30pm

Increasingly, politicians around the world have turned to social media to engage the people. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has also embraced the trend, fielding an array of questions from the public in her first Facebook Live session on Friday. The reactions were understandably mixed. A gay rights group criticised her for snubbing the hundreds of questions they had filed, while others branded the exercise as just a public relations gimmick. Given the limitations of the format used, Lam could not satisfy everyone. It was nonetheless a commendable attempt to reach out to the community.

The numbers speak for themselves. Viewership of the 48-minute session peaked at about 2,000 concurrents, and more than 38,000 people had watched at least part of it by the end. The video hit 170,000 page views by Monday afternoon and drew around 10,000 comments. But Lam received far more “angry face” emojis than “hearts” or “thumbs-up” images. She answered some 30 questions, ranging from the housing crunch to mainland migrant issues.

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The significance goes beyond whether she has won more praise than criticism. The session was part of her policy address consultation and, by turning to the web, the 61-year-old could reach out to a range of people who do not normally pay much attention to public affairs. There may well have been the usual critics or activists in the audience, but politicians have to face such challenges when they engage the masses. What matters is that social media can help them break down barriers and open up new horizons. By last Friday, Lam had received 7,000 submissions regarding her policy speech via new online channels, almost five times the number received for that of the previous government. However, she must also not forget the conventional ways of hearing the views of different sectors.

According to a study on the usage of 650 Facebook personal and institutional pages of political leaders and governments worldwide, there was a combined total of 309.5 million page “likes” as of mid-March this year. Their 500,000-plus posts published since January last year have garnered close to 900 million interactions with people. Now that Lam has had a taste of what a live session is like, the public looks forward to interacting with her more often on social media.