Youth I.D.E.A.S. 25

Governance and Constitutional Development

Building Public Trust in the Government

21 December, 2017



Trust is a precious resource in facilitating interactions among people in any kind of society, including those between the government and its people. It is also a major concern when it comes to good governance. Yet, when looking around the world, challenges to the mutual trust between the government and the public are common. An international survey noted that in 21 out of the 28 countries or areas polled in the survey, people’s trust in government was rated under 50%[1].


In Hong Kong, the percentage of people having trust in the SAR Government hovered around 20% over the past few years[2]. Despite the fact there has been a breakthrough in recent months with the percentage reaching more than 30%, the percentage is still under the average, 42%, found in another international survey[3]. The surveys of the HKFYG in 2015 and 2016 noted that more than 60% of young respondents did not think that they trusted the SAR Government[4]. The trust relationship between the SAR Government and the Hong Kong public is our concern.


In her speech at the Inaugural Ceremony of the Fifth Term Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, said that strengthening people’s trust in the SAR Government was a key task for her and her team[5]. Yet, building trust cannot be achieved in a single day; rather, it is a long and continuous process where challenges emerge unceasingly.


At a point where the new government has just started to operate, this research was conducted in an attempt to explore what the SAR Government could do to strengthen trust and confidence among the public. In conducting this research, data were collected for analysis through an on-site survey of 525 young people, aged 15 to 34, in early November 2017. In October 2017, five parallel discussion groups were conducted with a total of 20 young people. Interviews with five experts or academics were also conducted from October to November.



  1. The more stable the government-public relationship is, the more conducive it is to effective governance. There is neither a shortcut to nor a single factor involved in building trust, and trust can easily be ruined. The SAR Government should grasp any chances that could help to foster public trust in it.
  2. Effective policy message delivery and policy performance presentation are fundamental in nurturing public trust in government. It is worth thinking about what the SAR Government could do to maintain policy quality on the one hand and enhance the clear delivery of policy information on the other.
  3. The SAR Government faces two major challenges in establishing public trust: its inadequacy in (a) grasping public opinion and (b) connecting with districts. The administration should take actions to remedy the situation.
  4. People cherish such values as integrity, transparency and participation. The Government needs to integrate these values into the policy-making process.
  5. Young people have reservations when evaluating the trust-based government-youth relationship. A noticeable gap was observed between what they expected and what they have seen in reality on issues such as education, livelihood, and the constitutional development of the city. Doubts and qualms among youths might result from these reservations. Concrete actions from the Government are needed in order to alleviate worries or anxieties among the new generation.
  6. The tensions between the SAR Government and the Legislative Council have intensified in recent years, obscuring the performance of the two. The two parties should strive for a balance and go about their respective terms of references so as to secure trust from the public.



  1. Each bureau holds an annual policy progress presentation.
  2. Strengthen the communication between the Government and the people at the district level.
  3. Promote social values in the policy-making process.
  4. Establish a platform to put together information from all public consultations and public opinions.
  5. Take concrete actions to help solve the long-standing problems facing young people.




[1] 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report.

[2] The Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, various press releases from July 2012 to May 2016.

[3] Gallup World Poll.

[4] The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, Youth I.D.E.A.S., Reports, Sept 2015, and May 2016.

[5] Chief Executive’s speech at Inauguration Ceremony of Fifth Term Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, July 1, 2017.