Major international events topped the charts in Hongkongers’ Google searches for news this year, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the assassination of former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe being the two top topics.

google search File photo: Nathana Rebouças, via Unsplash.

The third most searched news topic was the Covid-19 pandemic in Hong Kong. At the beginning of 2022, the city was battered by the fifth and worst wave dominated by the highly infectious Omicron variant. More than 70,000 people were infected in a day at the peak of the outbreak and more than 7,000 lives were lost in the first three months of this year.

Hongkongers’ attention was also captured by a tragic incident that occurred during a live show by popular boy band Mirror, when a giant screen fell on a dancer and left him partially paralysed. The concert in question was the fourth most-searched topic.

mirror hong kong boy band
Hong Kong boy band Mirror. Photo: Mirror, via Facebook.

Lists released by Google this month reveal the most searched-for keywords, news topics, public figures and more.

Covid search terms dominate

Throughout 2022, the first and second most searched keywords among Hongkongers both related to the city’s Covid-19 policies – “vaccination appointment” and “compulsory testing.”

While some questioned the need for the scheme, the city’s health chief defended its effectiveness in raising vaccination coverage. The Vaccine Pass scheme was the fifth-most searched news topic among Hongkongers in 2022.

In February the government launched the Vaccine Pass which became mandatory to enter restaurants and a designated list of other premises. 

biontech covid vaccine
BioNTech Covid vaccine. Photo: BioNTech.

Through most of the year, Health authorities decreed mandatory PCR tests for residents of buildings with high infection rates.

In 2022, the most sought-after Chinese translation by Hong Kong Google users was for the word “PCR test.” At the same time, “rapid antigen test” ranked ninth among the most popular keywords.

‘Partygate,’ a family fallout and more

From Chief Executive John Lee to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hongkongers took to Google to learn more about the public figures making headlines locally and beyond. The city’s leader was the most searched person, according to the “top trending people” list, followed by Eileen Gu, the US-born skier who represented China in the February Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The spotlight on Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu did not fade with the end of the Games – searches for him spiked again in July, when the two-time Olympic champion announced his retirement.

john lee
Chief Executive John Lee meets the press on November 29, 2022. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The list of top trending people also reflected scandals this year. As authorities probed a birthday event that attracted top political figures during Covid’s fifth wave, Google saw a surge in searches for birthday boy Witman Hung, a delegate to China’s top legislature. Several guests subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

Also trending was Casper Tsui, then the home affairs secretary, who resigned after being photographed at what some local outlets dubbed “partygate.”

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Eunice Yung was ninth on the list of top trending people after she took out a newspaper advertisement severing ties with her pro-democracy father-in-law. Her declaration came two days after the authorities condemned him for launching a committee to establish a “Hong Kong Parliament” along with other overseas activists, a move that the Security Bureau said could breach the national security law.

Hong Kong and beyond

As the city gradually eased Covid restrictions, Hongkongers began visiting exhibitions, theme parks, concerts and other previously banned attractions. Concerts by Cantopop stars Terence Lam and Hins Cheung were among the top five keywords searched, according to Google’s list of “trending local hotspots.”

The newly opened Palace Museum also made the list, as did Water World Ocean Park. But they were no match for the book fair, which topped the list. Year after year, it is one of Hong Kong’s most popular events.

temple Kyoto Japan
A temple in Kyoto, in Japan. Photo: Rianto Lukman, via Flickr.

A relaxation in quarantine rules saw Hongkongers holidaying abroad again, many for the first time since the pandemic began. Japan dominated the list of most googled travel destinations, with nine out of ten top searches – including Kyoto, Okinawa and Osaka – being destinations in the country. Singapore scraped into the list at 10th place.

Additional reporting: Hillary Leung

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.