19:43 GMT20 October 2020
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    A lucrative £5 million deal was snatched by Consulum against the backdrop of protests in the streets of Hong Kong against the newly-introduced national security protection law by mainland China.

    The year-long contract between the Hong Kong government and the PR firm Consulum will focus on "relaunching" the administrative region of China to help "rebuild confidence in Hong Kong as a place to invest, do business, work and live."

    Hong Kong said that it wanted to tell its story right, addressing negative perceptions worldwide of the territory and rally support for its economic recovery.

    Consulum describes itself as "a specialist government strategic communications consultancy that uses an in-depth understanding of public, economic and political drivers to provide impactful strategic counsel and meet complex communications challenges." 

    The PR firm was founded in 2013 by a couple of executives Tim Ryan and Matthew Gunther Bushell, formerly of Bell Pottinger, an agency that in 2017 went into administration in the wake of the scandal over its campaign to stir up racial tensions in South Africa.

    The Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) on 30 June approved the national security law, which saw hundreds of protesters in Hong Kong take to the streets. The legislation provides from three years to life imprisonment for conspiring with foreign states or foreign organisations to undermine national security. It also makes makes secessionist, subversive, or terrorist activities illegal.

    Anyone who takes part in secessionist activities, such as shouting slogans or holding up banners and flags calling for the city's independence, will be in violation of the national security law, regardless of whether violence is used.

    UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on 1 July that the new law "constitutes a clear violation of the autonomy of Hong Kong, and a direct threat to the freedoms of its people, and therefore I'm afraid to say it is a clear and serious violation of the Joint Declaration treaty between the United Kingdom and China."

    He also said that Britain will provide Hong Kong nationals with British National Overseas (BNO) status, which would allow them to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain, with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship.

    "The prime minister and the government are crystal clear: the United Kingdom will keep its word, we will live up to our responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong. I can now confirm we will proceed to honour our commitment to change the arrangements for those holding BNO status," Raab told the parliament. 

    The Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) on Tuesday approved the national security protection law, which entered into force on the same day. The law bans secessionist, subversive and terrorist activities, along with any form of foreign interference in Hong Kong. According to Beijing, the new security law aims to punish illegal activities in the city without harming the existing democratic freedoms of locals.

    The Hong Kong police have already detained over 180 people on Wednesday for "participating in unauthorised assemblies and other related offences" which are punishable according to the new law.

    Following 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong became part of China again on 1 July 1997. Beijing refuses to recognise the "unequal treaties" allowing Britain's rule of Hong Kong island, the Kowloon peninsula and later its lease of the rural New Territories.

    Hong Kong maintains its economic and administrative systems, while the main governance comes from mainland China.

    Tags:
    new law, protests, PR, United Kingdom, Hong Kong
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