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Hong Kong needs ‘honest brokers’ to tell its story

The paradox is that this restoration cannot necessarily rely on “retail” communication through mainstream international media, but instead on “wholesale” communications, most of which occurs out of the public eye, beyond the immediate reach of hothouse politics.

It must be driven not by government officials but by people who are recognised as “honest brokers”. The challenging reality for Hong Kong is that it has been fighting an uphill narrative war for more than 30 years. Throughout the 1990s, I took part in hundreds of behind-the-scenes meetings and discussions with visiting think tanks and business groups who were often more interested in lecturing than listening, and who carried deep prejudices.

Some remained impregnably convinced that Chinese troops would swarm across the border in 1997 to swallow up “feisty little Hong Kong”. But many were swayed by discussions with the “honest broker” groups like the Vision 2047 Foundation and the Better Hong Kong Foundation, local businesses and community leaders – as well as simple exposure to Hong Kong and its obviously undiluted freedoms.

The challenge then, as now, was to accurately identify both the voices that would be recognised as “honest brokers” and organisations that might be the most effective channels for unprejudiced discussion and debate.

My argument today would be that our various administrations since 1997 have generally failed to identify or effectively prioritise these voices and channels. This has led to millions of dollars being wasted on ineffective and sometimes vacuous “reputation-building” initiatives. It has allowed ill-informed and maliciously motivated voices to impose a simple prejudiced narrative on Hong Kong’s complex and nuanced story. Rising