Lam says PR firms declined to help restore Hong Kong’s reputation

Hong Kong’s leader has had to ask international public relations firms to help restore the city’s reputation battered by months of anti-government chaos, but was rejected.

The city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said today the firms told the government that ‘the time is not right’ as the violence and unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory showed no signs of ending.  

The city’s reputation was likely tarnished not just by the protests but by what many viewed as the government’s slow response to the crisis. 

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had to turn to public relations companies for help to restore the city's tarnished reputation, but was rejected. Lam is seen at a news conference on Tuesday

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had to turn to public relations companies for help to restore the city's tarnished reputation, but was rejected. Lam is seen at a news conference on Tuesday

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had to turn to public relations companies for help to restore the city’s tarnished reputation, but was rejected. Lam is seen at a news conference on Tuesday

Months of streets protests have damaged Hong Kong's global image and credit ratings

Months of streets protests have damaged Hong Kong's global image and credit ratings

Months of streets protests have damaged Hong Kong’s global image and credit ratings

The city's residents have been organising large anti-government demonstrations since June

The city's residents have been organising large anti-government demonstrations since June

The city’s residents have been organising large anti-government demonstrations since June

Hong Kong’s credit rating downgraded

Credit rating agency Moody’s changed its outlook on Hong Kong’s rating to negative from stable on Monday.

The move follows another agency Fitch Ratings’ downgrade earlier this month on the financial centre’s long-term foreign-currency-issuer default rating to ‘AA’ from ‘AA+’.

Hong Kong’s financial secretary Paul Chan said the city’s government disagrees with Moody’s assessment and that the inference is ‘not founded on facts’.

The city’s leader Carrie Lam said the downgrade was ‘disappointing’ but acknowledged that the continued instability had tarnished international perception of Hong Kong’s financial stability. 

Days after more than a million people took to the streets in early June, kicking off the protests, Lam suspended an extradition bill that sparked the unrest but refused to formally withdraw it. 

She caved in this month after the demonstrations escalated, but the promise to ax the bill was deemed too little, too late as protesters widened their demands to include democratic reforms.

‘It would perhaps be not the most cost-effective way to use government resources to launch any campaign to rebuild Hong Kong’s reputation, but sooner or later, we will have to do it because I have every confidence in Hong Kong’s fundamentals,’ Lam told a news conference on Tuesday.

‘The time will come for us to launch a major campaign to restore some of the damage done to Hong Kong’s reputation,’ she said.

Lam didn’t give details on the firms or when they were approached today.

Police spray blue dye at protesters using a water cannon to identify participants on Sunday

Police spray blue dye at protesters using a water cannon to identify participants on Sunday

Police spray blue dye at protesters using a water cannon to identify participants on Sunday

The city’s government invited eight global public relations companies, but four immediately declined, saying it would be ‘a detriment to their reputation to support the Hong Kong SAR government now’, Lam revealed in a closed-door meeting with business leaders last month.

Two other firms turned down requests for meetings and Lam was planning to meet the remaining two personally, Lam said according to a recorded speech of the meeting obtained by Reuters.  

Violence flared again over the weekend after an unapproved march downtown descended into familiar chaos. 

A protester prepares to throw a petrol bomb at the government on Sunday. Hong Kong officials have reiterated that violence is not the solution after the city's protests became more brutal

A protester prepares to throw a petrol bomb at the government on Sunday. Hong Kong officials have reiterated that violence is not the solution after the city's protests became more brutal

A protester prepares to throw a petrol bomb at the government on Sunday. Hong Kong officials have reiterated that violence is not the solution after the city’s protests became more brutal

A protesters displays on her phone a poster that uses the stars of the Chinese national flag to depict a Nazi Swastika symbol during a peaceful protest in Hong Kong on Monday

A protesters displays on her phone a poster that uses the stars of the Chinese national flag to depict a Nazi Swastika symbol during a peaceful protest in Hong Kong on Monday

A protesters displays on her phone a poster that uses the stars of the Chinese national flag to depict a Nazi Swastika symbol during a peaceful protest in Hong Kong on Monday

Anti-government protesters hurled around 80 home-made petrol bombs at the government buildings and police, who fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds. 

Brawls also broke out between demonstrators and pro-China activists. At least 28 people aged between 18 and 58 were injured during the confrontations, according to the hospital authority.

Police arrested 89 people over three days, the youngest of whom is 13.

Hong Kong’s economy, already reeling from the US-China trade war, is facing its first recession in years, with tourist arrivals plunging and businesses being hit by the unrest.

The government took out a full-page advertisement in the Australian Financial Review earlier this month.

Protesters wave flags and chant slogans outside the UK embassy on September 15

Protesters wave flags and chant slogans outside the UK embassy on September 15

Pro-democracy protesters wave flags and chant slogans outside the UK embassy on Sunday

The advertisement was published two days after Lam’s announcement that she was formally withdrawing the bill, vowing a peaceful resolution to the conflict amid concerns of possible military intervention by China. 

It’s the only known overseas effort by the government to assuage international jitters.

Credit rating agency Moody’s changed its outlook on Hong Kong’s rating to negative from stable on Monday. 

Lam said the downgrade was ‘disappointing’ but acknowledged that the continued instability had tarnished international perception of Hong Kong’s financial stability. 

Moody’s was the second agency to make the move after Fitch Ratings.

Earlier this month, Fitch Ratings downgraded Hong Kong’s long-term foreign currency issuer default rating to ‘AA’ from ‘AA+’. 

Lam also said that she will begin open dialogues next week with various community groups, including protesters, and that participants can freely express their views.

Workers investigate a derailed train in Hong Kong on Tuesday. The train derailed during the morning rush hour, sparking rumours that it may have been caused by protesters

Workers investigate a derailed train in Hong Kong on Tuesday. The train derailed during the morning rush hour, sparking rumours that it may have been caused by protesters

Workers investigate a derailed train in Hong Kong on Tuesday. The train derailed during the morning rush hour, sparking rumours that it may have been caused by protesters

The fire department said eight people were injured, including five who were hospitalised

The fire department said eight people were injured, including five who were hospitalised

The fire department said eight people were injured, including five who were hospitalised

Many protesters have said the dialogues are meaningless if the government refuses to accept their four other demands – direct elections for the city’s leaders, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, unconditional release of protesters who have been detained and not labeling the protests as riots.

Lam said not all Hong Kong citizens support the protesters’ demands and reiterated that the government cannot condone violence. 

She said the dialogues are not one-off ‘gimmicks’ but an important first step to resolve grievances over problems such as shortage of affordable housing and lack of jobs that contributed to the unrest.

Also Tuesday, a subway train derailed during the morning rush hour, sparking rumours that it may have been caused by protesters, some of whom have vandalised subway stations in recent weeks. 

Transport Secretary Frank Chan urged the public not to speculate as investigations are ongoing. The fire department said eight people were injured, including five who were hospitalised.

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