The "Relaunch Hong Kong" publicity campaign has cost taxpayers a staggering HK$45 million for a public relations agency for strategic planning before the 12-month scheme even starts next year, the Home Affairs Bureau has revealed.
The agency conducted local and international baseline research to help government officials gain insights on what people in key markets thought of Hong Kong.
Replying to a question by the New People’s Party's Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee in a Legislative Council meeting today, Secretary for Home Affairs Casper Tsui Ying-wai said the contract was awarded to communications consultancy Consulum FZ through an open tender in June last year.
He said that the original value of the contract was US$6.4 million, equivalent to HK$49.7 million, but around US$730,000 had been saved due to a change in the promotion strategy and implementation timeline. The contract finished on July 30.
Tsui said Consulum conducted research to help the administration better understand perceptions about Hong Kong in key markets. The results showed the SAR had unique advantages over competing cities in Asia, pointing to direct access to markets in the mainland and elsewhere in the region and having a secure pro-business platform and a cosmopolitan lifestyle.
He said the contractor was also tasked with improving perceptions of Hong Kong, including the ideas that the SAR is “a safe, growing market” and “a great place to live."
Tsui said such messages would be adopted in an overseas business confidence campaign later this year to reinforce Hong Kong's image and to pave the way for the “Relaunch Hong Kong” campaign tentatively scheduled for 2022.
But he said the timelines, scope and scales of the campaigns would hinge largely on how the pandemic was going and recovery of business activities.
He added that the Information Services Department had no plans at this stage to engage more public relations consultancy services.
Seven companies had bid for the public relations contract last year, but many dropped out. That led to Consulum winning the bid.
The PR consultancy was also employed by the Saudi Arabian government in 2018 to rebuild its international image after its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was accused of ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi