Hong Kong’s government contacted eight public relations firms to try and rebuild the embattled city’s image, but all of them declined the contract.
The city has seen months of unrest sparked by a proposed extradition bill that has since been withdrawn.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and her government have been widely criticised for their response to protesters.
The PR firms said that “the time is not right” to restore the territory’s reputation, Ms Lam told reporters.
“At one point in time, we did have that idea of approaching some international PR firms to provide some advice,” she told a press conference on Tuesday.
“The advice we have been given is the time is not right, because we are still in this sort of social unrest, disturbance and violent acts and vandalism on such a regular basis.
“It would perhaps not be the most cost-effective way to use the government resources to launch any campaign to rebuild Hong Kong’s reputation. But sooner or later we will have to do it, because I have every confidence in Hong Kong’s fundamentals.”
In a leaked transcript of an August address to businesspeople, published by Reuters news agency, Ms Lam said that four of the eight firms had turned the job down straightaway.
The other four firms were then invited to a briefing with the government.
According to the brief, published in the PR industry paper The Holmes Report, the government wanted a firm to “address negative perceptions in key markets overseas to maintain confidence in Hong Kong”, and to “underscore the strengths and attributes that differentiate Hong Kong from other cities in the region and bring out the success of one country, two systems”.
None of the four remaining firms bid for the contract.
Speaking to the publication, a representative for one of these firms criticised the government for trying to develop a PR strategy “while the streets are on fire”.
What is the situation in Hong Kong?
The protests began in June in opposition to a proposed bill, which would have made it possible for people in Hong Kong to be extradited to mainland China.
Critics said they could have faced human rights abuses.
The bill was initially shelved, and later withdrawn completely, but this has failed to quell the protesters’ anger.
Now, protesters are calling for full democracy and an investigation into allegations of police brutality during the protests, among other demands.