The “new style of governance” that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged back in 2017 has virtually crumbled following her administration’s catastrophic defeat over the proposed amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance.
Henceforth, it is understood that her administration will avoid putting forward any policy or legislative initiative that might arouse public concerns about any potential threat to the “one country, two systems” principle.
A pro-establishment figure who is close to Lam said that, perhaps due to the chief executive’s tough, “combative” personality, almost no one in her inner circle had probably daredto call a spade a spade during the early days of the extradition bill controversy, thereby setting the administration on a course towards an unprecedented public relations disaster.
Ironically, after Lam announced on June 15 that the government had decided to suspend the legislative push, members of her Executive Council quickly rallied to her defense one after another.
But on June 18, the chief executive was basically on her own when she held a media session to apologize to the public in relation to the mishandling of the proposed changes to the extradition law.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah, one of the politically accountable senior officials who played a key role in the legislative push, first apologized on her official blog, then appeared before the media in person and apologized again the next day.
The pro-establishment figure said the government’s PR team should be held accountable for having failed to coordinate the administration’s apology efforts.
Another pro-establishment figure who had recently exchanged views with government officials revealed that the current administration is going to stay focused on livelihood issues for the remainder of its term.
At the same time, the government will refrain from touching on policy issues that might arouse public suspicions about any perceived attempt to change the nature of cross-border relations or to undermine the “one, country, two systems”, he added.
However, he didn’t say if this means the government will also avoid moves toward the enactment of Article 23 of the Basic Law.
Instead, he stressed that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area program is apparently not on the government’s “not-to-do list” as it is largely an economic development initiative.
The same pro-establishment figure pointed out that the propaganda against the extradition bill has proved so successful because it played on the widespread Communist-phobia among Hongkongers – as well as the apprehension that Hong Kong may one day become just another mainland city.
He cited a mini-movie that has gone viral on social media recently. The film depicts the tribulation of a local butcher who gets framed by the Communist Party and is sent back to the mainland to stand trial.
Since the movie has received a lot of media coverage, many citizens have come under the impression that it is based on a true story, when in fact it isn’t.
The pro-establishment figure went on to say that some had actually suggested the government clarify the disinformation spread by the micro-movie “point by point”.
However, the administration eventually decided not to do so after having consulted the Department of Justice.
The government believed the pro-establishment camp, given the huge amount of resources at its disposal, may be in a better position to launch a counter-propaganda campaign.
Yet it is also understood that after having learned the power of the opposition camp’s propaganda machine the hard way, the government decided to step up efforts at gathering online information to make sure it can respond in time in the coming days.
Meanwhile, in the eyes of the pro-Beijing camp, propaganda is not a thing solely used by the pan-democratic camp.
Some in the local advertising industry have cast doubts on the authenticity of a short online video clip featuring a man claiming to be Louis Yuen that has gone viral on social media recently and grabbed headlines in several pro-establishment media outlets.
It is suspected that the video clip could have been deliberately fabricated to target middle-aged and elderly citizens in an apparent effort to incite animosity between the young and old generations.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 25
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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