Blog post -
Messaging dilemma: responding to questions about HK's new security law
One of the toughest set of questions corporate spokespeople get asked in interviews these days is their company’s policy on the Hong Kong Security Law.
The issue is clearly complex, the viewpoints are wide and varied, and your response when asked about them in the media clearly require nuance and sensitivity.
But the point of this (very short) blog is not to debate the law, but how to respond when asked to take a corporate position on it.
No matter how you respond, you are bound to offend someone - broadly in two camps:
- If you come out in support of the law, you are branded pro-Beijing. The outcry over the law by various governments and the media are such that supporting the law immediately leads to the conclusion that you are anti-demonstrators, or even anti-democratic.
- If you come out against the law, you will clearly upset the powers that be in Beijing.
Sitting on the fence is bound to lead to more questions until the person asking gets at least a sense whether you have a bias in favour of (1) or (2).
Throughout countless media training workshops where this has come up among companies with representation in Hong Kong, the only viable response I've come across so far is: “We follow the law..."
That is about as neutral as it’s going to get. It might not please those members of your audience who wish you take a stand, but it also doesn’t say you agree with it.
In fact, you might need to follow up with: "...and anyone who has looked at it would know that this is the only course of action. After all, banks don't make laws, governments do. It doesn't mean we have to like or dislike those laws. But good corporate governance dictates that we follow the law. Period."
I welcome alternative views.