The Hong Kong government has hired a Mayfair-based PR firm in a bid to drown out negative coverage of the territory in the UK media.
Consulum has been awarded a lucrative £5m deal to run the city’s “Relaunch Hong Kong” campaign, following a high-profile tender process that involved numerous global PR firms.
The London-based PR agency was launched in 2013 by two veterans of Bell Pottinger, an agency that has been criticised for representing controversial governments. Consulum has previously attracted reproval for representing Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman.
The year-long tender will seek to restore Hong Kong’s prized reputation as a global business hub, after the city claimed its image has been tarnished by recent protests.
Consulum will develop a marketing plan to shift attention away from Carrie Lam’s administration, and instead “help rebuild confidence in Hong Kong as a place to invest, do business, work and live”, Hong Kong said in a statement.
The territory conceded that it had failed to “mobilise the community to support law enforcement actions and condemn intimidation, doxxing, vandalism and the criminal and violent behaviour of rioters” during recent protests in the city.
“Addressing these perceptions to effectively tell the Hong Kong story to targeted global audiences will be critical to support Hong Kong’s economic recovery,” it added.
It comes as Hong Kong today received international condemnation after passing a new security law that hands Beijing sweeping powers over the city.
More than 70 people have been arrested in Hong Kong during protests against the new law, which allows police to arrest citizens for subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces in a move that effectively bans protests.
Those found guilty are likely to be sentenced to a minimum of three years in prison, with the maximum being a life sentence.
The new legislation was enshrined into Hong Kong law today on the 23rd anniversary of Britain’s handover of the territory to China.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab slammed the law as a “clear and serious violation” of the handover treaty between China and the UK.
He added: “It constitutes a clear violation of the autonomy of Hong Kong, and a direct threat to the freedoms of its people and therefore I’m afraid to say it is a clear and serious violation of the Joint Declaration, a treaty between the United Kingdom and China.”
Consulum was approached for comment.