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Survey Finds Young Social Media Users in Hong Kong Tend to Distrust the Government

Image from HKFP.

Image from HKFP.

This post was written by Kris Cheng and originally published on Hong Kong Free Press on January 4, 2017. The version below is published on Global Voices under a partnership agreement.

Social media is the major source of news information for some 46 per cent of young people in Hong Kong, and more than 77 per cent among this group of social media users do not trust the government, a recent survey has found.

The poll was conducted by the Centre for Youth Studies at the Chinese University’s Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies. It showed that Facebook was the most frequently used platform with 67.7 per cent of interviewees saying it was the social media site they visited most often. It was followed by WhatsApp at 14.4 per cent and Instagram at 12.2 per cent.

Those surveyed were aged between 15 and 29. A total of 829 people were interviewed by phone between October and November 2016.

The survey also found that despite young people’s frequent online activity, most of them seldom participated in offline political events. And if people with radical political beliefs professed them publicly, more than 60 per cent said they would find it objectionable to varying degrees.

As quite a number of large-scale protests, such as the anti-national education movement in 2012 and the pro-democracy sit-in at the end of 2014, were led by young activists, the public in general believes that young people in Hong Kong are getting more and more radical.

Scholars overseeing the survey also urged the government to communicate through social media.

For all young people interviewed, 66.6 per cent were not quite satisfied – or very dissatisfied – with the government, whilst 63.5 per cent said they were quite – or very – distrustful of the government.

Young people who used social media as their major source of public affairs information were significantly more dissatisfied with the performance of the government, and significantly less trustful of the government — 77 per cent of interviewees who read news from social platforms tended to distrust the government, and among those who accessed news from other sources, only 51.1 per cent found the government distrustful.

Other findings:

  • 61.5 per cent of youth aged 18 to 29 voted in the 2016 Legislative Council Election, but many did not join other offline political activities.
  • 44.4 per cent of respondents have never participated in activities such as marches, signing a paper petition, or wearing/showing a sign/symbol associated with any social movement.
  • 24.8 per cent of respondents said they had never participated in any online political activities.
  • In terms of political activity, the highest proportion of respondents said that they had posted or shared public affairs information or commented online during the past year. 25 per cent said they did so once or twice, 22 per cent said several times, whilst 12.3 per cent said they often did so.
  • More than 80 per cent of respondents said they would not find it objectionable at all if people who had recovered from a mental illness or people of other ethnicities were striving for their rights publicly.
  • Over 70 per cent said the same for homosexuals or sex workers.
  • However, only 39 per cent said they would not find it objectionable if people with radical political beliefs professed their stance publicly.

Stephen Chiu Wing-kai, a professor at the university’s sociology department, said the results reflected the fact that few young people were active in political activities. He said it showed that the idea of young people becoming politically radicalised was unfounded.

Wilson Wong Wai-ho, an associate professor of government and public administration, said few government departments have social media accounts, and that if the government truly wishes to communicate with young people, it should strengthen communication on social media.

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