28 October 2016
CY Leung was on Facebook on Sunday before the page became unavailable just hours after it was launched. Photos: HKEJ, Facebook
CY Leung was on Facebook on Sunday before the page became unavailable just hours after it was launched. Photos: HKEJ, Facebook

How CY became a Facebook shooting star

It was CY Leung’s first stab at Facebook, but as it turned out, it was not to be.

Just hours after the page went up on Sunday, it was taken down. No word why.

It had a warning that it “may only be visible to an audience you’re not in”. 

On Monday, Andrew Fung, information coordinator for the Office of the Chief Executive, shared a picture of Leung uploaded on a page titled “I support CY Leung”. 

Your guess is as good as mine, but some netizens wondered if Leung’s debut post was politically incorrect or sensitive.

That is, if wearing a “HK Our Home” t-shirt in front of Government House and talking about gardening rise to that level.

Still, some netizens suspected Beijing’s Liaison Office of having had a hand.

Others said it was another “oops” moment for the gaffe-prone Hong Kong leader after realizing he should have used WeChat, China’s Twitter-like messaging service, rather than a social media platform that’s under an indefinite ban in the mainland. 

In fact, Mark Zuckerberg is working on it.

The Facebook co-founder has been in Beijing talking to ordinary citizens and presumably trying to get officials to ease up a little.

On Saturday, he delivered a 22-minute speech to students at the elite Tsinghua University in straight Chinese.

Back in Hong Kong, Leung probably meant his maiden post to herald his reelection campaign two years early.

With his approval rating sinking like a stone, he could use a more folky, less rigid approach.

But Facebook can be a two-edged sword.

It helped topple governments and dictatorships during the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa in 2010-2011.

While it can help smooth the rough edges for politicians, it can also bring unintended consequences.

Social media has highlighted scandals and personal failings, from US politicians and military leaders to Vatican priests and high-profile celebrities.

Financial Secretary John Tsang, a potential chief executive candidate, is one of a few social media success stories.

Tsang has racked up more than 12,000 followers and more than 3,300 friends since he launched his Facebook page last year.

A photo of him congratulating boxer Rex Tso, simply captioned “well done”, received more than 1,000 likes and 34 shares.

Another shot of him cheering the Hong Kong football team has made the rounds of social media.

Netizens warm to Tsang because they want to see a government official who is human, not a yes-man to Beijing.

Even Eddie Ng, who occupies a lowly spot in public opinion polls, managed to get a bump after posting a photo showing him holding a popular soft drink marked “Eddie” on the can, according to Ming Pao Daily.

Not the Hong Kong police, though.

When the police department debuted on Facebook last month, it was raked with negative comments about the seven officers accused of beating pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang during last year’s street protests.

It did not stop the government from pursuing a social media strategy, with no less than three cabinet secretaries and 12 bureau chiefs tasked with its implementation.

The final nudge for Leung toward social media may have come from his elder daughter Chai-yan, a popular figure on the internet, who famously said her father knows nothing about Facebook.

Apparently Leung, already unpopular with voters, is even less well liked by younger netizens.

One young poster said Leung’s Facebook page would instantly become a hit if there was a “dislike” button.

Another said his first question to him would be how to cook a lobster, referencing Leung’s wife Regina who is often mocked for her fashion sense, especially her penchant for screaming orange and red.    

No word if Legco President  Jasper Tsang, who has had a testy relationship with Leung in recent months, has anything to say — or if he even noticed CY’s short-lived misadventure.

But in a blog post Monday about his meeting with a top Mexican official, Tsang summed it up with a punchy headline, “no reelection“, if he hadn’t meant it to be about someone else.

The Mexican official had told Tsang that by law, the country’s president cannot seek reelection after a six-year term (to prevent dictatorships).

In fact, he said the US president serves only six years counting reelection, spending the fourth year to get reelected and the eighth year as a lame duck.

Without directly mentioning Leung, Tsang turned his post into a homespun tale and many netizens got the idea.

Editor’s note: The page was relaunched Monday evening.

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EJ Insight writer

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