Ever since she took office, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has been putting a lot of energy into enhancing the public relations efforts of her administration, and has remained demanding when it comes to the government’s PR initiatives.
Recently, a glitch made by a political assistant at a policy bureau in informing the pro-establishment lawmakers on an important bill that requires their presence in the Legislative Council has served to put the focus on the tools that should be adopted for effective communication.
The political assistant was held responsible for the defeat of an important funding request tabled in the Legco to help authorities create three new positions in relation to the project for the third runway at the Hong Kong International Airport.
The bill failed to pass the Legco Establishment Subcommittee because there weren’t enough pro-establishment lawmakers present at the meeting on that day.
There has been hearsay among the government officials that a political assistant at a policy bureau adopted the practice of relying on WhatsApp to remind pro-establishment lawmakers to attend important Legco meetings on time in order to cast their votes for government bills.
To save time, it is said that the political assistant even cut corners by setting up WhatsApp groups through which he or she could send reminders to all pro-establishment lawmakers in one go rather than visit them or their respective assistants, or send “tailor-made” messages, one by one.
Sources said some senior pro-establishment lawmakers were dismayed at being “summoned” to meetings through WhatsApp messages, and criticized the political assistant, who is getting paid over HK$100,000 a month, for being disrespectful and sloppy when it comes to lobbying them.
In fact they were so unhappy with the way the political assistant treated them that they have complained personally to the chief executive.
And according to sources, following their complaints, the Office of the Chief Executive has stressed that it is necessary to have sincerity when undertaking lobbying work, and ordered that all political assistants to bureau chiefs must demonstrate respect when communicating with pro-establishment lawmakers.
If political assistants can’t get in touch with the lawmakers personally, they should at least reach out to their assistants politely and ask them to pass on the message, an experienced political assistant said.
And, this veteran individual added, even under circumstances where there is no other means to reach the lawmakers except by new technology such as WhatsApp, the message must at least be “tailor-made” for that particular lawmaker rather than being sent out in the form of a mass message to a group chat.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 8
Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting
[Chinese version 中文版]
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