DC shops get ready as Hong Kong seeks US business

WASHINGTON - The government of Hong Kong will soon hear proposals from DC agencies hoping to take over its campaign to lure America's confidence and its business.

Currently held by Hill & Knowlton, the $500,000, two-year contract aims to portray Hong Kong as the most independent and business-friendly of Chinese cities -- "The New York and London of Asia," the request for proposals reads. By reassuring American investors that the city's government is reasonably independent from the Chinese socialist economic system, Hong Kong hopes to sell itself as the gateway to doing business in the region.

A spokeswoman said the Hong Kong government is required to open the business to competition every two years under the law. It was two years ago, in March 2001, that H&K won the business from Edelman in a similar review.

A spokeswoman from H&K would not comment on whether the agency planned to submit a proposal.

Hong Kong was reclaimed by China in 1997 after more than a century of British occupation. Under that agreement, it will operate under a "one country, two systems" rule for 50 years, operating as an independent entity in all matters other than foreign affairs and defense.

Tactics outlined in the RFP include speaking engagements for Chinese officials with business groups, think tanks, and academics, as well as arranging visits to Hong Kong for American corporate interests. A top-down media strategy stresses the inclusion of corporate opinion leaders and highly placed political figures, both state and federal.

The winner of the contract will run the campaign from March 1, 2003 to February 28, 2005. Proposals were due last Friday, December 13.

FH/GPC, Fleishman-Hillard's lobbying arm, currently handles lobbying duties for the city.

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