The Hong Kong government has spent HK$7.4 million so far on a global advertising campaign aimed at reassuring foreign investors and visitors the city was still safe despite months of protest chaos. Industry experts said the official campaign had lost out to a similar drive by the protesters who have raised more than HK$30 million since June to run multiple rounds of adverts worldwide, which they said made a greater impact.

A day after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced the withdrawal of the extradition bill on September 4, the government launched a global advertising campaign describing the financial hub as a safe and welcoming place for business. Stating they were “determined to achieve a peaceful, rational and reasonable resolution”, the government’s advert reassured the international community that Hong Kong remained “a safe, open, welcoming and cosmopolitan society and an internationally connected, vibrant and dynamic economy.”

The Information Services Department revealed the total advertising cost so far was about HK$7.4 million. The advert has been published in selected major overseas newspapers or magazines. The government’s move mirrored that of protesters, who launched the first two campaigns in early July and raised almost HK$10 million combined. The first saw adverts placed in at least 20 mainstream newspapers in 13 countries during the G20 summit in Osaka. Activists raised HK$15.4 million online for the third campaign, accusing the police of using “chemical weapons” in August. Their latest campaign, to counter the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, is under way.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she was holding back from using emergency powers against violent protests for fear of inflicting more damage to the city’s reputation. She also said it was “remarkable” by global standards there had been “no major fatalities” during months of anti-government demonstrations, as she again backed police’s handling of the unrest. Speaking ahead of her weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam said the case had not been made to invoke emergency legislation amid fresh calls from pro-establishment politicians for an anti-mask law. Lam had signalled her readiness to get tough on the anti-government protests about a month ago by saying her administration would consider all the city’s laws, including the Emergency Regulations Ordinance. The legislation, last used during the 1967 leftist riots, gives the chief executive the authority to “make any regulations whatsoever which he may consider desirable in the public interest” if she considered it an occasion of “emergency or public danger”.

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