We are all PR gurus now

Now all the fuss about his marital infidelity is long-forgotten history from the dim and distant past, Henry Tang and his friends can get back to focusing on the serious business of sort of indicating a desire to be the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong without actually saying so or expressing any hint of how he might actually run the city. The introduction of death by stoning as the penalty for adultery – while never very likely to begin with – can, I think, now be totally ruled out. Otherwise, we are in the dark about Henry’s policy agenda.

What we have just witnessed is a fairly competent public relations exercise, in which someone instinctively trying to cover up bad news gets convinced to take the opposite tack. By telling the truth sooner rather than later, he gets the inevitable over with, perhaps impresses us with his openness (in the US he and his wife would cry for the cameras) and regains at least some control over the story, drawing the line at naming names.

The next step, as with a company that has to pull adulterated food off the shelves (same root word – ‘to pollute’), is a re-branding exercise. The food manufacturer, after withdrawing the product, paying compensation and taking out full-page ads assuring the public of its commitment to safety, lies low for a while, then re-launches the line with a similar but noticeably different package design, as if to say ‘the same stuff you always enjoyed but without the poison that somehow got it in’. An image remake for Henry would perhaps have him dressing in Giordano T-shirts, doing some voluntary work helping homeless puppies, being seen dining out on instant noodles at 7-Eleven, stop hanging out so obviously with all these tycoons and so on.

If one rule of PR/politics is ‘get bad news out early’, another is ‘kick your opponent when he’s down, really hard, but discreetly’. Now, in other words, is the time for Henry’s rival for the coveted CE title, CY Leung, to come storming onto the scene waving a big banner saying ‘Here comes the guy who doesn’t cheat on his wife, wasn’t born into wealth and isn’t a dimwit constantly being told what to say by publicity advisors or moderately cute-looking Administrative Officers who think they’re publicity advisors’.

What CY Leung should now do is make a blockbuster speech addressed to the whole of Hong Kong. Ideally, it would be next Tuesday, just 24 hours before Chief Executive Donald Tsang presents his last ever Policy Address, which is likely to include some exceptionally lame attempts to resolve Hong Kong’s deadly conundrum: allowing the people to live in their own city without making homes affordable. Just before Sir Bow-Tie delivers his pathetic proposals to drip-feed a few subsidized shoeboxes onto the market to shut up the riffraff, CY could say something like…

 “Our colonial-era land and housing system is forcing you, the people of Hong Kong, to pay far more than you should for your homes and workplaces. Even if you own a home or a workplace, you have to pay for other people’s every time you buy something. If rents were lower, companies could afford to pay higher wages and dividends, and charge less for their products. If housing prices were lower, workers could be property owners and the middle class would have more money to spend on other things. More jobs would be created. A wider range of industries would come into being, with no artificial assistance from government. It would be possible for poorer people to open a small shop or other business. There would be more opportunities, more prosperity, probably more tax revenue, and it would all be shared out much more fairly. In other words, the wealth you create through your hard work will no longer be forcibly diverted into the revenues of a small number of landlords, developers and cartels. It is your money, and it is unfair – indeed, it is immoral – that it is being taken from you in this way. If I become CE, this will stop.” 

Some of this may be naïve (companies charging less?), it may be unfair (smaller landlords are in cutthroat competition at times), it may be bordering on economically illiterate (how, pray, will this happen?). It may all be one huge lie. It doesn’t matter. It would, to put it mildly, raise the stakes, if not knock Henry back onto the ground before his buddies have even finished dusting him off.

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11 Responses to We are all PR gurus now

  1. maugrim says:

    Lisa does disturbingly look like CY and, I hate to say it, has been seemingly whacked over the head with the ugly stick one too many times. That Henry has a bit on the side wont matter to any one who is Chinese. The fact that he was caught, will. Henry just joins the ranks of many for whom the fuss has died down and its business as usual. Except as a CE, Im not so sure its something that can or will go away. Infidelity having a variety of implications a politician could do without.

  2. Revolution says:

    So, if I’ve got this right:

    1. Rumours surface about Henry having affairs.
    2. Shirley Yuen is named as “the other woman”
    3. Henry and Shirley deny this.
    4. Henry changes tack and admits he has had affairs, though doesn’t name Shirley.
    5. Shirley was recently appointed to a high profile, well paid job for which she does not appear to have any qualifications, given it is a role for a business person and she is a career civil servant, and for which there was apparently little or no attempt made to find alternative candidates.

    Now, Shirley may not be the other woman, and her appointment to that role may be nothing to do with Henry, but if I were CY Leung (or, for that matter, an inquisitive media) I’d certainly be wanting to get to the bottom of this. Affairs may be no one else’s business, but corruption and cronyism is.

  3. Iffy says:

    So who did the new head of RTHK sleep with?

  4. maugrim says:

    “Affairs may be no one else’s business, but corruption and cronyism is.”

    Revolution, it all depends. If you are a captain of industry its simply guanxi or the fact that HK is such a small place, of course there are going to be ‘coincidences’. Unless of course you are a small potato somewhere, then its a matter for ICAC.

  5. Stephen says:

    Maugrim,

    But Henry isn’t wearing his captain of industry hat he has his politicians hat on.

    So what we really need the media to get to the bottom of is to establish that Shirley Yuen is (one of) the other woman and how did she get the job?

    If this whips up a media shit storm I fear the door opening wide enough for Rita Fan to re-enter the scene …

  6. maugrim says:

    Apparantly Shirley may not be it. Married gweipo with families is the word.

  7. Probably says:

    Unfortunately this is the most exciting thing to happen in Hong Kong politics in ages.

    What is really needed now to liven up the CE selection campaign is for fundementalist Christians to follow the Stallion around everwhere at all of his public engagements and to decry him as an “adulterer”.

    Do we know of any devout Christians who routinely know of Henry’s whereabouts and are able to gain close access should they need to do so? Oh….

  8. Kath says:

    It’s HK culture, for the middle-upper middle class, it’s pretty much expected that they have a mistress. The wives take care of the kids, have the status of legitimacy and lots of spending money in exchange for their willingness to play dumb.

    The adultry itself is no big deal to people, the fact that he got caught with his pants down, so to speak, is probably more an issue. Most likely, people who support him will just rationalize their choice by saying that – he’s so honest, admitting the truth and everything! Which is such bullshit…

  9. Real Tax Payer says:

    1. I fully agree with Revolution about corruption and croneyism
    If Henry is dipping his banana into a colleagues honey pot and she gets rewarded for keeping quiet, then I shudder to think what ole horsey will do with the property cartels. At least Donlad is an honest man, although weak and visionless. But I cannot imagine him dipping his hand into the till. But as for Henry ….yes I can imagine just that

    And we all know that the ICAC never go after the really big fish, nor do the police ( 39 Conduit Road scandal for the nth time ?!)

    2.But much more to the point : Hemlock’s draft speech for CY is magnificent

    If Hemlock has a hot line to CY I would recomment he sends the draft to him ( seriously)

  10. rickyricardo says:

    Kath, Do you really believe that Hong Kong wives don’t feel the pain of betrayal that any wife would feel? That a new car or flat will make it all better? You’re the materialistic one. To characterize infidelity in Hong Kong as “no big deal” is ignorant in the extreme, and simply says that you know nothing about it.

  11. paul says:

    Fine, but “Tatler” would be out of business.

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