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Who was the most popular public officers over the past one year amid the pandemic?

Source: Wisers    2021.01.12
Professor Yuen Kwok-yung and Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan received most positive comments over the past one year amid the pandemic, but neither of them was the most popular public officers

A series of contingency measures have been put in place by the HKSAR government over the past year to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, involving different government departments and different levels. As a result, the media exposure of government officials and public officers has increased sharply and they have become the focus of heated discussions among netizens. Wisers made use of its artificial intelligence system to analyze netizens’ positive and negative comments over the past year to identify the most popular government official or public officer. In the first stage, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, Head of Communicable Disease Branch of the Centre for Health Protection, who hosts the press conference updating the epidemic situation, was the most popular among netizens. The public figures’ popularity rankings saw some changes as the pandemic raged on. Dr Chuang failed to maintain her top popularity and fell out of the top three. Let's look at the changes and the reasons behind it.

To sum up, the top five throughout the year were those who were listed in the second stage, though their ranking positions changed. Throughout the year, the most popular government officials or public officers were Chan Hon-yee, followed by John Lee Ka-chiu, Chuang Shuk-kwan, Yuen Kwok-yung, and Matthew Cheung Kin-chung.

Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan received most netizens’ support in the initial stage

In the first-stage analysis results for the period from 1 January to 16 May released by Wisers   in June, Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan was the most popular public officer, followed by Dr Chan Hon-yee, Director of Health, Dr Law Chi-kwong, Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, Secretary for Education, and John Lee Ka-chiu, Secretary for Security. Wisers’ research team monitored and analyzed the positive and negative comments received by government officials and public officers, and identified the top five most popular ones by net positive comments. Looking at netizens’ comments,  Dr Chuang received their appreciation and support for officiating the press conference and updating citizens about the latest development of the pandemic.  

The analysis team was launched into the second stage of survey from 17 May to 31 December, and detected significantly different results from those of the first stage. The top three most popular government officials or public officers in the second stage were Dr Chan Hon-yee, John Lee Ka-chiu, and Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, Chief Secretary for Administration. Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan fell from the top to the fourth place in this stage, while Professor Yuen Kwok-yung of the Department of Microbiology of the University of Hong Kong, who is also the government advisor on the pandemic, took the fifth place.

Top five most popular government officials or public officers in the first stage
Top five most popular government officials or public officers in the second stage
Top five of the most popular government officials or public officers throughout the year
Dr Chan Hon-yee replaces Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan as the most popular public officer

According to big data, Dr Chan Hon-yee received comparatively more positive comments and fewer negative comments and she replaced Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan as the most popular public officer in the second stage and throughout the year. The positive comments for Dr Chan were mostly supportive of the government’s anti-epidemic measures, while some positive comments were directed to district councilors who wrote to the government to discuss related anti-epidemic measures. Positive comments in relation to John Lee Ka-chiu were also pro-government, including comments about the Eastern District Council passing a motion to ask Chief Executive Carrie Lam to lead officials to study the epidemic situation in Wuhan. Matthew Cheung Kin-chung garnered 69,520 positive comments   and most of them were related to anti-epidemic measures.

Anti-epidemic hero receives polarised comments

Although Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan failed to keep the top position as the most popular government official, she continued to be in the limelight. When she was absent from the press conference, which was rare, netizens would speculate and discuss her whereabouts. Some netizens even left comments to “wish her well”. There were 97,987 positive comments in relation to Chuang throughout the year, including messages like “We are with you, Dr Chuang”, “Appreciate your hard work”, and “Please keep it up”. Her falling out of the top place may be because some netizens alleged she stood by the government and lied to the public at the press conference; some even said  “she had sold her soul”. Most of the negative comments were criticisms about her “evasion from critical issues and covering up the epidemic situation” and “being a defender of totalitarianism”.

In fact, both Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan and Professor Yuen Kwok-yung garnered the highest volumes of both positive and negative comments. In the first stage, Professor Yuen was not on the chart, but he  took the fifth place in the second stage, and even the fourth place for the year. In both stages, Professor Yuen amassed the highest volume in terms of the number of posts and engagement. There were 130,810 positive comments about Professor Yuen. The reason of him getting the most mentions was not surprising as he was interviewed the most about the outbreaks and anti-epidemic measures. Some netizens saw him as their idol, while some said he always made “stunning” remarks. Some netizens pointed out that Yuen was irresponsible and flip-flopping over topics like face masks and border closure, which made netizens cast doubt on his professional image.

Positive comments throughout the year (receiving the most positive comments)
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