Facebooking Nationalism:
Construction of Hong Kong Nationalism on Facebook

Justin Chun-ting Ho

University of Edinburgh

Slides available: http://bit.ly/HKDigitalResearch

Key Research Question:

What are the principal elements in the discursive constitution of Hong Kong nationalism?


Data Source: Facebook pages of major Hong Kong nationalist groups.

Analysis: A mixed method approach of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) and Computational Text Analysis

Why Facebook?

Why Facebook?

  • An important platform of political communication (Michael Chan, Hsuan-Ting Chen & Francis L.F. Lee, 2016;
    Hsuan-Ting Chen, Michael Chan & Francis L.F. Lee, 2016;
    Francis L.F. Lee & Joseph Man Chan, 2015; Gary Tang & Francis L.F. Lee, 2013)
  • A major channel of mobilization during the Umbrella Movement (Paul S. N. Lee, Clement Y. K. So & Louis Leung, 2015)
  • All nationalist groups use Facebook

Why Mixed Method?

Critical Discourse Analysis

  • Close analysis of language
  • Focuses on how power structures and dominance are reproduced or resisted through discourses
    (van Dijk, 1995)

Problem of CDA

  • Unsystematic manner of applying analytical procedures

    (Koller & Mautner, 2004; McEnery & Wilson, 1996)
  • Unable to deal with large corpus
  • Sampling could be problematic

Text Analysis

  • Systematic analysis of large-scale text collections (using computer progarmmes)
  • Draws on techniques from Natural Language Processing
  • Augmenting close reading, not replacing
    (Read Grimmer and Stewart (2013) for the pitfalls of Text Analysis)

Preliminary Findings
(Text Analysis)


  • Facebook page of Hong Kong Indigenous, Youngspiration*, Hong Kong National Party, Reforming Hong Kong, etc
  • Collected with NetVizz, tokenised with Python, analysed with R
  • 8,783 posts, average of 70 characters per post, mostly Chinese but also English

*Special thanks to Dr. Chung-hong Chan and Prof. King-wa Fu for sharing the data

Topic Modeling

Next Steps

  1. More Pages (?)
  2. Visual Content

Cantonese Tokenisation


兒子 / 生性病 / 母 / 倍感 / 安慰

兒子 / 生性 / 病母 / 倍感 / 安慰

What I have done:

  • Produced a list of 957 words, 818 words are valid
  • Complementing Jieba

Raw Text



今日 下午 三時 半 高等法院 就 行政 長 官梁頌 恆 游蕙禎 兩人 的 立法 會 議員 資格 提出 司法 覆核 之 案件 頒發 判詞 並判 梁 游 二人 敗訴 亦 即 二人 之 議員 資格 被 撤銷

Jieba with Wordlist

今日 下午 三時 高等法院 行政長官 梁頌恆 游蕙禎 立法會 議員 資格 提出 司法覆核 案件 頒發 判詞 並判 梁游 二人 敗訴 二人 議員 資格 撤銷

Scaling Up:

  • Cantonese Tokensier
  • Scraped 1 millon posts from online forums (still counting)
  • Expanding to Facebook comments
  • Suggestions are welcome

Thank You!

Twitter: @justin_ct_ho
Github: justinchuntingho
Email: Justin.Ho@ed.ac.uk