Hong Kong ad campaign touts protest-stricken city's freedoms

Months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests have shaken Hong Kong's venerable tourism and retail sectors and risked its reputation as a stable place to do business. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong authorities have taken out an advertisement overseas for the second time in three months, aiming to reassure the world that the Asian financial hub remains free and stable after months of violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

A full-page advertisement attributed to the government appeared in Monday's (Dec 16) edition of The Australian newspaper and is also expected to run in papers in the United States and Europe.

"It's been tough, but we will solider on," the ad read. "The economy has taken a dip, but we will bounce back strong."

It said the city "remains a welcoming, free society".

The ad also said Hong Kong's fundamentals - including the "one country, two systems" principle by which it is governed by China, its rule of law and its "highly internationalised, competitive, A-level playing field" - were strong. It listed nine freedoms it said the city enjoys, such as freedom of speech and the press and capital flows. The words "freedom", "freest" or "free" were bolded in each bullet point.

The ad marks the government's second global newspaper advertisement campaign since September as it increases efforts to address concerns that its freedoms are being eroded. Months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests have shaken its venerable tourism and retail sectors and risked its reputation as a stable place to do business.

Ongoing Campaign Hong Kong authorities have said they want to combat fake news and rumours they believe have been spread to "provoke" recent social conflicts and smear the city's police force, which has come under fire for its aggressive tactics against protesters.

Government officials located in overseas trade offices, as well as the police's public relations branch, have in recent months sent letters to newspaper editors worldwide to respond to what they consider "untrue" or "false" reporting.

The government's Information Services Department has also created a series of one-minute Cantonese-language videos called "Check Facts to Keep Fake News in Check", with hosts discussing specific acts of violence by protesters and their consequences, or repeating clarifications from official statements.

The series aims to "remind the general public to beware of various information that they come across", Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, the city's No. 2 official, told lawmakers last week.

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