During the election campaign, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor not only lagged far behind her major rival John Tsang Chun-wah in terms of popularity, but also suffered a massive defeat on the internet front which resulted in several public relations disasters, thanks to her notorious unfamiliarity with social media.
However, four months after the election, the new chief executive has apparently come a long way in using social media to engage the public and boost her popularity.
After she was sworn into office last Saturday, Lam immediately activated her Facebook and Instagram accounts and opened them to the public.
There are still quite a few negative feedback from netizens, but she has received a lot more “likes” than she did during the election.
Lam’s painstaking effort to improve her public image over the past four months appears to have started paying off: not only did the brief protest staged by localists in Wan Chai on June 30 fail to draw any substantial public attention, the turnout of the July 1 rally this year also saw a dramatic plunge, down from 110,000 people last year to only 60,000 as the organizers themselves have claimed, a 10-year low.
What is more, unlike in previous July 1 rallies, the crowd this year dispersed peacefully after the march without stirring up trouble.
During the rally, the protesters assailed Leung Chun-ying’s alleged misdeeds, including his secret dealings with the Australian company UGL, and demanded that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and his wife be allowed to seek medical treatment abroad.
However, slogans or banners against Carrie Lam were rarely heard and seen throughout the rally.
All these suggested that even though it might be still premature to conclude that the opposition has dropped its hostility towards Lam altogether, at least it has chosen to go easy on her for the time being, which is definitely a good sign for the new administration.
On the other hand, President Xi Jinping stressed in his speech during his three-day visit to our city that Beijing is willing to hold dialogues with all individuals and political groups regardless of their political views as long as they sincerely support the One Country, Two Systems principle and the Basic Law.
This has been widely interpreted as giving the green light to Lam’s initiative to mend fences with the pan-democrats.
So, given her relatively high popularity, Beijing’s support as well as the “wait-and-see” approach adopted by the pan-democrats at this stage, it seems Carrie Lam and her new administration have got off to a pretty good start.
However, as the saying goes, “time flies when you are having fun”. Lam’s honeymoon period with the public and the pan-democrats could be brief, and it’s hard to tell what the future really holds in store for her and her new administration.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 3
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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