Politicians around the world are increasingly using social media to promote themselves and government policies, especially those who live in democratic societies.
However, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has no need for exposure in the social media, as he and his officials do not need to please internet users, since his power comes from the authorities in Beijing rather than from the residents of the city he administers.
So, when Next Magazine published a cover story Wednesday on several nubile young women, apparently including Taiwanese and Japanese porn stars, listed as “friends with CY” on Leung’s Facebook page, it was a bit of a joke, since most Hongkongers have no interest in what Leung does with his Facebook page nor his promotion of his policies in the real world.
The Chief Executive’s Office quickly claimed that Leung’s Facebook page was hacked this month.
It’s generally not an issue for a Hong Kong politician to have friends on his Facebook page from Taiwan or Japan, even if they are beautiful models or so-called porn stars.
But, our chief executive appears to have taken the issue quite seriously.
His office said it filed a complaint with police Dec. 24 about the suspected hacking of his Facebook page, saying some information and settings were modified, some posts deleted, some “new friends” added and that even the profile picture was changed.
However, some internet users found that those porn stars became “friends” with Leung last month.
At the moment, it is unclear whether Leung’s account was really hacked or whether the claim is purely a tactic to divert public attention.
If a hacker exists, did he or she really help Leung add the sexy women as friends? Or just leak Leung’s friend list?
All these remain a mystery to the public.
The incident shows that Leung is incapable not only of administering the city but also his own Facebook page.
He, or the managers of his Facebook account, has just turned his propaganda channel into a public relations disaster.
In fact, it is hard for an ordinary person to believe that hackers added those women to Leung’s Facebook list of friends.
Given Leung’s unpopularity, netizens commented that if there were hackers, they would instead have changed his page more dramatically, perhaps posting on it slogans like “CY Leung step down” or “We want genuine universal suffrage”.
So, the internet users argued, it is more likely that these friends, who come from Japan and Taiwan and are politically sensitive from Beijing’s perspective, were added by one of the managers of Leung’s Facebook page.
While the incident is still developing, it may not be appropriate to comment further on it, but it seems that Leung knows nothing about using Facebook as a public relations tool.
Leung started using Facebook in October, but interestingly, he did not open a fan page to allow other Facebook users to follow him but merely opened a personal page with limited access to the public.
Other Facebook users can only access his public posts, and access to his friend list was restricted.
Only “friends” of Leung can leave comments on his Facebook page.
All this indicated that Leung positioned Facebook as a private communications platform rather than a channel to promote his government.
Leung’s first Facebook post was about his gardening experiences with flowers.
Other posts talk about Leung attending events and official meetings with the public, making speeches to organizations and being the guest of honor at some events.
All the posts are in Chinese. No English-language posts can be found on Leung’s page.
Frankly speaking, Leung’s Facebook page is more like the front page of Beijing’s People’s Daily, which typically features state leaders’ activities as front-page news.
Leung’s posts are written in official language rather than in a way that might appeal to young people, who use the internet and social networks to get most of their news.
The leader of Hong Kong should make use of this channel to promote his ideas and reach out to the opposition in an effort to convince them to support the government’s policies.
However, Leung’s Facebook page is more like a private garden in which he can feel good, with young internet users fenced out instead of allowing them to visit and interact with Leung in the virtual world.
As a political leader, Leung should learn to be more of a professional Facebook user, rather than just an entry-level player.
He should at least open a fan page to let all Facebook users follow his posts, sharing his joyful moments as well as debating controversial political topics.
While the fan page might not help Leung gain the trust of the public in the short term, it could help him to better understand the people’s thinking about his policies and mindset.
Leung may be lacking the self-confidence to reach out to young people.
But he could also focus on his supporters first.
While some people may think that internet users are mostly youngsters and those who are against the authorities, the fact is that the pro-government camp also performs well on Facebook.
For example, Speak Out Hong Kong, a pro-Leung page, has more than 200,000 followers.
That could be a good starting point for Leung to rebuild his social media strategy.
Under the leadership of Leung, Hong Kong is no longer a great place to live and work.
Everything is subject to political considerations, which often outweigh professional judgment, widening the gap between the government and the general public.
Social media platforms are the last venue for the public to express their feelings about the governance of Hong Kong.
Leung should be willing to be their target, instead of taking cover behind a garden wall.
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