Social media is the major information source for some 46 per cent of young people, and more than 77 per cent of those who receive news from social media channels do not trust the government, a survey has found.

The poll was conducted by the Centre for Youth Studies under the Chinese University’s Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies. It showed that Facebook was the most frequently used platform with 67.7 per cent of interviewees saying it was their most frequently used channel. It was followed by Whatsapp at 14.4 per cent and Instagram at 12.2 per cent.

Photo: Pixabay.

Those surveyed were aged between 15 and 29. 829 people were interviewed by phone between October and November last year.

Radicalised youth?

It also found that despite young people’s frequent online activity, most seldom participated in offline political events. If political radicals professed their stance publicly, more than 60 per cent said they would find it objectionable to varying degrees. Scholars overseeing the survey said young people were not as radical as some thought. It urged the government to communicate through social media.

police liaison office unrest sheung wan independence basic law protest
Photo: Mario Sixtus.

For all young people interviewed, 66.6 per cent were not quite satisfied – or very dissatisfied – with the government. Whilst 63.5 per cent said they were quite – or very – distrustful of the government.

Young people who used social media as their major source of public affairs information were significantly more dissatisfied with the performance of the government, and significantly less trustful of the government.

Other findings:

  • 61.5 per cent of youth aged 18 to 29 voted in the 2016 Legislative Council Election, but many did not join other offline political activities.
  • 44.4 per cent of respondents have never participated in activities such as marches, signing a paper petition, or wearing/showing a sign/symbol associated with any social movement.
  • 24.8 per cent of respondents said they had never participated in any online political activities.
  • In terms of political activity, the highest proportion of respondents said that they had posted or shared public affairs information or commented online during the past year. 25 per cent said they did so once or twice, 22 per cent said several times, whilst 12.3 per cent said they often did so.
Facebook Whatsapp composite
Photo: HKFP.


  • More than 80 per cent of respondents said they would not find it objectionable at all if recovered mental patients or people of other ethnicities were striving for their rights publicly.
  • Over 70 per cent said the same for homosexuals or sex workers.
  • However, only 39 per cent said they would not find it objectionable if political radicals profess their stance publicly.

Stephen Chiu Wing-kai, professor at the university’s sociology department, said the results reflected the fact that few young people were active in political activities. He said it showed that the idea of young people being radicalised was unfounded.

Wilson Wong Wai-ho, an associate professor of government and public administration, said few government departments have social media accounts, and that if the government truly wished to communicate with young people, it should review its policy to strengthen communication on social media.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.