When PR efforts create bad PR

Making a change from the ‘exodus’ stories, the latest trend in Hong Kong media coverage is the ‘lipstick on a pig’ article – critiquing the local authorities’ attempts to boost the city’s ‘image’ rather than fix the reality. Best example is this Bloomberg op-ed. The SCMP does it timidly (and addresses the HK Police’s own plan to restore its reputation).

The government’s efforts to regain control of the narrative are easily mocked – it’s obvious that Mainland officials are involved in rebutting overseas criticism, hence press statements loaded with shrill slogans guaranteed to alienate the audience. John Lee is also imploring young people to tell Hong Kong’s story well…

“It is paramount for the global community to know our achievements and unique advantages for us to continue to shine as the Pearl of the Orient.”

Business groups AmCham and the British Chamber join in with events supposedly aimed at improving Hong Kong’s international standing. These voices could be more nuanced, admitting that the human-rights and rule-of-law situations are – as the SCMP would put it – ‘raising questions’, thus giving their messaging some credibility. But expect slightly milder versions of the official rhetoric insisting everything is fine; to the business sector, ‘telling the Hong Kong story well’ is a shoe-shining exercise like conferences taking Belt and Road and Greater Bay Area seriously. Even corporates’ objections to Covid quarantine requirements, which are inflicting direct commercial damage, echo official lines claiming that Hong Kong remains a dynamic hub.

It’s almost as if feigning concern about Hong Kong’s reputation and determination to correct the problem has become another patriotic performance.

Meanwhile, the reality…

Samuel Bickett explains why many Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians are ‘pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit’. Full article by him here

What did this alleged coup consist of? Not much, it turned out. The 47 were accused of participating in a party-organized primary election and vowing, if elected to the Legislative Council, to veto the government’s budget—a right explicitly granted to the LegCo by Article 52 of the Basic Law

Minors, including a girl aged 15 at time of arrest, plead guilty to threatening national security (hell of a thing to put on your resume in the years ahead)…

The seven were accused of organising street booths and press conferences, as well as using social media, to spread seditious messages and incite others to subvert state power…

Margaret Ng’s mitigation plea before receiving a suspended sentence for unauthorized assembly. HK Rule of Law Monitor discusses the case – classic ‘lawfare’…

There was little dispute about the facts. The key challenges were constitutional: a) at the systemic level, that criminal offences relating to unauthorized assembly were  disproportionate restrictions of the freedom of assembly and of procession; and b) at the operational level as relating to the facts on the day of 818, including that the assembly was peaceful, the police had not told the crowd to disperse, and making arrests only 8 months after.

China Digital Times looks at Hong Kong’s creeping censorship, with arrests of online forum administrators and bans affecting film and book producers.

Speaking of shoe-shining exercises – HK University’s compulsory National Security course looks absurdly easy to pass. If I were a Mainland official, I would demand something more ‘sincere’-looking.

Some thoughts from a Westerner returning to Shanghai after missing the lockdowns – compare and contrast with Hong Kong.

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8 Responses to When PR efforts create bad PR

  1. D3SH says:

    Is it me or has the SCMP been doing more fervent shoe shining lately? All the headline articles lately seem designed to do an extreme spit and polish. There was that dumb one last week about the CE and his many Weibo friends, another headline article about China’s new Z-20 attack helicopters reporting for duty in HK, and today’s headline article attempts to rubbish asylum options in the UK. Has the Latrine been let off the leash, or do I need to spend less nights on Lockhart?

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    “Business groups AmCham and the British Chamber join in with events supposedly aimed at improving Hong Kong’s international standing.”

    Can Jim Thompson get the Rolling Stones to have a concert in HK again? That might help the “Pearl of the Orient” shine? (I thought Shanghai was the “Pearl of the Orient”, hence the Oriental Pearl Tower? Or was that “Whore”?)

  3. Guest says:

    Watching ten hours of video in order to pass the national security course isn’t as easy as it seems. Many people today have trouble paying attention after ten minutes (if not sooner) if the videos they’re viewing aren’t at least somewhat interesting.

    So how can the government make the videos interesting–and still hammer its idea of national security into young people’s heads?

  4. Noel Coward says:

    “Because even after everything that’s happened this year, there’s something undeniably special about Shanghai. A combination of history, culture, and money that makes it unique among Chinese cities. Oh and xiaolongbao.” ~Dan Macklin

    The back cover of every book ever written about Shanghai.
    Every Lao Wai that’s spent time there thinks “their era” was the most exciting…adventurous… lawless and nothing can ever equal it.
    And they ALL want to live in some run down, rodent infested, non working utilities 1930s apartment or villa in the “French Quarter” cheaply renovated by some Shanghainese who collects rent via remote control from his home in Vancouver or Hong Kong, hoping to bump into a ghost in the stairwell, a la Jack in “The Shining”.
    That glorious era romanticized to death where it truly was the 1% on top of the teeming masses and just before the “Empire of the Sun” ruined all the fun & debauchery.

  5. Yonden Latrine says:

    @guest … there’ll be rapping. You know there’ll be rapping.

  6. AHW says:

    Isn’t the phrase “Pearl of the Orient” rather, erm, colonial?

  7. Hamantha says:

    I’ve only heard of Margaret Ng by reputation, and always in venerated terms. Her statement to the court proves it.

    What cancer has overtaken us that a woman of such principle is deemed a criminal.

  8. Rul of La says:

    From Marge’s speech:
    “I also realise that it is not good enough for me to make speeches in beautiful words and measured dignity in the precincts of the Legislative Council, shielded by the privilege of absolute freedom of speech and debate, and immunity from legal action.”

    That’s some biting sarcastic commentary on the decline of the rule of law right there. Well played.

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