Those who believe the Government can never get it right, when it comes to public relations, will have to think again in the light of the way its controversial share-buying spree has proved such an unexpected success with the Hong Kong public. A policy that has badly damaged the SAR's reputation overseas and may yet have severe long-term repercussions has nonetheless been a short-term presentational success on the domestic front. 'The Government has done such a great job in terms of PR that anyone who dares to raise an objection comes in for severe criticism,' complained Democratic Party legislator Fred Li Wah-ming. 'I don't know whether the Government has scored a victory. But, at least, they've done so much in the media that no member dare say they opposed this idea,' he added, during a council panel meeting that saw surprisingly muted criticism. A fortnight ago this would have been inconceivable, as large sections of the media - including this column - denounced the administration's intervention in the stock and futures markets. One popular magazine even called it 'Hong Kong's suicide'. Pro-democracy politicians rushed to add their condemnations while many government supporters kept a low profile. By this week it was a different story. Those previously unsure how far to back the administration were effusive in their praise while the democratic camp was forced on the defensive. Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming pointedly failed to repeat his previous denunciations of the intervention in this week's panel meetings. Instead he confined his criticism to the lateness of new steps to tighten control over the stock and futures markets. Had these been in place earlier, he complained, there would have been no need for a share-buying spree. The Frontier's Emily Lau Wai-hing said she still opposed the intervention but seemed reluctant to elaborate, saying there was 'no time' to do so and it would be better to circulate copies of critical newspaper articles instead. Fellow Frontier legislator Lee Cheuk-yan put his finger on the reason for his colleagues new-found caution, complaining the public only supported the intervention because of the 'sense of security' it provided. That explains why so many legislators have toned down their criticism. The arguments against intervention have not changed. If anything, they have grown even stronger, with the resulting downgrades by international credit rating agencies. But public opinion polls speak louder than ratings agencies as far as Hong Kong politicians are concerned. With polls showing a narrow but consistent majority in support of the Government's action it has become electorally unappealing to continue speaking out so stridently against it. That leaves the administration in the unusual position of being able to claim a PR success. But many will be left scratching their heads as to what officials did to achieve this. Financial Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen went on holiday during the intervention while his colleagues kept their heads down. Monetary Authority Chief Executive Joseph Yam Chi-kwong was more active, although primarily in writing defensive newspaper articles which can hardly be credited with swaying mass opinion. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that the intervention's side-effect, in propping up the Hang Seng Index, is always an easy way of winning some short-term popularity. Whatever the reason, it would be churlish to deny that, for the first time since the handover, the administration has achieved what all governments aspire to do: successfully present a rotten policy so it looks like a good one.