The final phase in gaining approval for the Tamar project has been marked by a bitter war of words involving claims, counter-claims and behind-the-scenes smear tactics, it has emerged. While opponents raised doubts over issues such as costing and toxic contamination of the seabed, the government propaganda machine swung into action using press briefings, public statements and newspaper articles. Officials said they were on the defensive. 'The opposition has adopted a hit-and-run tactic,' said one. 'They would make an allegation and we would have to ... make a detailed clarification. They just didn't listen and kept repeating their allegation. The opponents have more money, better skills and use strategy. It's a new ball game.' An anti-Tamar activist, however, said the government orchestrated a smear campaign against its opponents. One accusation was that they were the mouthpieces of vested business interests, the activist said. As an onlooker, Dr Lo Chi-kin, a political affairs consultant, said the Tsang administration had adopted a more aggressive PR strategy. 'This government will no longer be passive. From political reform and the West Kowloon and the Tamar projects, the government has fought to the end on the public relations front. 'When their decision is challenged, bureaucrats are well trained to counter the criticism with loads of data and information.'