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Hongkongers’ Most Furious Day Amid the First Three Waves of COVID-19 Outbreak

Source: Wisers 2021.01.12

Members of the public experienced an emotional roller-coaster of joy, fury and sadness amid the pandemic. It was heard that the city burst into an outcry of fury from time to time. Just what infuriated netizens the most?  Big data analysis finds out that government officials and their policies are the causes of their fury.

Government Officials’ Salary Donation Criticized for Copycatting 

Wisers made use of its artificial intelligence system to analyze over 29.15 million online comments captured in the first three quarters of 2020 (from 1 January 2020 to 6 September 2020). Through the analysis, Wisers identified different emotions expressed by netizens and worked out the proportion of "fury" among the four emotions of joy, sadness, weary and fury. According to data, 28 February was the day with the highest "fury index" of netizens, just two weeks after their “most joyous day" (14 February).

According to the online comments, what infuriated netizens on that day was the announcement made by the Chief Executive about all politically appointed officials donating one month's salary to the Community Chest as a token of their commitment to fight against the pandemic and ride out the difficult times with the public. On that day, it happened that the Singapore government announced a one-month pay cut for the prime minister, cabinet and parliament members. These two incidents ignited widespread online discussions and comparisons. Wisers’ hot word system found that "Community Chest" was the hot word most frequently mentioned by netizens on that day, followed by a one-month "pay cut", which appeared at least 172 times. After a detailed analysis of the online comments, it was found that netizens were generally unhappy with the small donation made by government officials, saying the sum was meager, and they were just copycatting the Singapore government in a bid to salvage their approval rating. Some netizens even pointed out that government officials should have a pay cut instead of "donating salary", saying that "their salaries are actually taxpayers’ money".

Full-day Dine-in Ban Further Infuriates Netizens

Wisers' artificial intelligence system reveals that netizens' feelings of "sadness", “weary” and "fury” peaked on 29 July. It was the first day of the full-day dine-in ban implemented by the government during the third wave of COVID-19 outbreak in Hong Kong. Those engaging in outdoor work, such as construction workers and cleaners, were forced to have their meal in the rain across Hong Kong, and related comments went viral. Netizens considered the government's full-day dine-in ban ineffective in controlling the outbreak. In netizens’ view, the measure paid no regard to the needs of the public and outdoor workers and was seen as “impractical". Government officials were slammed for "misusing their power" and "failing to sympathize with grassroots workers". It is worth noting that the hot words in relation to "weary", "sadness" and "fury” are very similar. "Government", "Hongkongers” and "meal taking" were the top three hot words related to these three emotions.

It can be concluded from the above data that netizens felt "furious" in the first three waves of outbreak largely due to their perception that government's anti-epidemic measures failed to respond to public demand and lacked political wisdom. When a new wave of outbreak hits Hong Kong’s shores, will people’s discontent continue and keep dominating public opinions? Will the authorities take heeds of netizens’ emotions in the first three waves of outbreak and put in place anti-epidemic measures and policies to meet public demand? This is a topic that is worth our examination.

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