29 February 2020
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam (R) takes questions from citizens during a Facebook Live event on Thursday, following her policy speech the previous day. Photo: Carrie Lam's official Facebook page/screenshot
Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam (R) takes questions from citizens during a Facebook Live event on Thursday, following her policy speech the previous day. Photo: Carrie Lam's official Facebook page/screenshot

Lam greeted with deluge of ‘Angry’ emoticons at FB Live event

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor won’t be too happy with the public’s response to her Facebook Live event on Thursday, when she sought to elaborate on the proposals outlined in her 2019 Policy Address.

Following the social media Q&A session, which went on for one hour after it began at 8 pm, an overwhelming proportion of the reactions from netizens was negative, and the overall participation rate of citizens in the online event was also not too high.

As of 10 pm Thursday, of the 13,000 or so reactions posted by people on the online platform, as many as 10,000 were “Angry” emojis, pointing to the society’s general unhappiness with the Lam administration and a reflection of the chief executive’s low popularity, especially among the youth.

In the Facebook Live event, which was conducted at the office of the government’s Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office, Lam had sought to respond to citizens’ questions and comments on the policy speech that she delivered on Wednesday.

The forum, which marked her first such initiative after a policy address, came after a question-and-answer session held in the Legislative Council on the event was disrupted by opposition lawmakers earlier in the day.

During the Facebook event, Kenneth Ng King-tsun, a former TVB news anchor who is now a political assistant to the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, acted as the host, selecting the questions.

The viewer number was estimated to be around 8,000 at the peak, a not-too-high figure for such a key event. 

Many netizens left messages saying “Five key demands, not one less” during the live session, but Lam reiterated that is there is no room for more concessions after she withdrew the extradition bill earlier.

Quite a number of commentators expressed concern about the law enforcement issues and the conduct of the police force.

Lam said that if some officers made mistakes, people can put in complaints through established channels.

Some people mentioned that police officers were not displaying their warrant cards or identification badges during their law enforcement actions.

Lam responded by saying that she will keep urging the police force to fulfill the existing guidelines as much as possible.

The chief executive noted that the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) is looking at several incidents that had sparked public concern, including an attack that took place on protesters at the Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.

In other comments, Lam said she is “perplexed” that some demonstrators have been raising calls for disbanding the police.

The Hong Kong leader spent most of the time explaining and defending her latest measures on housing, such as raising the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio for qualified homebuyers, during the event.

As she was outlining her initiative, a commentator wondered whether Lam was trying to turn protesters into homebuyers by making mortgages more accessible. 

Lam dismissed such talk, saying the questioner was perhaps allowing his imagination to run wild.

The government is not trying to use housing as a solution to a political problem but only hoping that the relaxation of mortgage requirements can help those who want to buy a flat but were unable to do so due to prohibitively large down-payment requirement, Lam said, RTHK noted.

Earlier on Thursday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung defended Lam’s policy address in an RTHK radio program.

Asked about criticism that the policy speech focused too much on land and housing but failed to deal with the other demands of the public, Cheung said the two issues are not directly related.

When questioned whether it is now deemed taboo to criticize the police, Cheung said Hong Kong society needs to move forward and stop dwelling on the July 21 Yuen Long incident, where police were accused of turning a blind eye as some thugs set upon anti-government protesters and others.

In another RTHK radio program on Friday morning, he tried to explain more by saying: “The IPCC will look into the whole saga, including July 21, they are doing very good work at the moment.”

The agency “will be coming out with an initial report by the end of this year or early next year, so in other words things are moving in the right direction. So we should leave it in the hands of the IPCC,” the broadcaster quoted Cheung as saying.

In other remarks, the chief secretary said the government has no intention of establishing an independent commission of inquiry into the recent incidents, at least not until society returns to normal.

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