The Hong Kong government has hired a global firm that did publicity work for Saudi Arabia to “relaunch” the city following a year of protests as well as economic challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Information Services Department (ISD) announced on Monday that Consulum FZ LLC (Consulum) has won the “Relaunch Hong Kong” campaign tender, with a one-year contract worth US$6,289,215. The global strategy and communications consultancy specialises in supporting countries and governments, ISD said.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

“We believe this initiative can help Hong Kong reconnect with global audiences as we gradually reopen for business and visitors after the worldwide fight against Covid-19 subsides,” ISD Deputy Director Brett Free said.

The open tender originally attracted seven bidders, but at least two – Edelman and MSL – withdrew their applications after Beijing announced and approved plans to promulgate national security laws in the city, according to PR news platform PRovoke.

Some PR agency heads have told PRovoke that the government is a “very controversial client,” while others cited local employees’ concerns as they steered clear of joining the government campaign.

Last month, the ISD said in a statement that the project aimed to restore Hong Kong’s status as an international business hub after being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. But a local union has slammed the campaign as a “political spin.”

The Hong Kong government has earmarked HK$226.6 million for the ISD to manage the city’s foreign public relations – a 53.5 per cent boost from last year. The publicity work will promote a “favourable image” of the city internationally and on the mainland.

Saudi Arabia has struggled to rebuild its image following backlash over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2018.

Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.