Violent clashes between protesters and police, clouds of tear gas and vandalised shops and train stations are not the images of Hong Kong the government wants the world to see. Full-page advertisements taken out in leading international newspapers show the preferred vision, a picture-perfect aerial view of the harbour with a pristine sky-blue background surrounded by skyscrapers. But bringing back tourists and events, and drawing businesspeople and investors after seven months of the city’s biggest tumult since its return to Chinese rule will need far more than a public relations campaign. While a thorough rebranding will eventually be necessary, it would make sense to first restore confidence locally before taking the drive overseas. ‘Hong Kong remains free’: city launches new PR blitz overseas Unthinkable unrest in Asia’s premier financial centre and a perceived fight for democracy at a time of pressure being put on China over trade and freedoms have been an intoxicating mix for foreign journalists. They have dutifully recorded every clash and disruption to daily life and, perhaps most damagingly for the city’s image, chaos at the airport. Little wonder that tourist arrivals year on year for September were down 35 per cent, a slew of events have been cancelled and revenue for the hotel and retail sectors is at decade lows. With the economy having slipped into recession and the economic outlook poor, authorities are looking beyond financial relief measures to stabilise and rejuvenate growth. Pushing back against the negative publicity by telling the world that Hong Kong is down but not out and open for business seems sensible. The message of the ad, following on from an earlier one in September , is that the city’s fundamentals and freedoms remain intact. But the timing is wrong – the protests are continuing and show no sign of abating, the government still lacking an acceptable strategy to address demands and underlying concerns. The best way to build confidence in Hong Kong is to first start at home. Ending the protests and violence has to be the government’s priority. In doing so, it has to deal with the deep roots of political and social discontent in society. When calm, stability and certainty are returned, it can look afresh at selling the city to the world.