The flag of Hong Kong was adopted on 16 February 1990. On 10 August 1996, it received formal approval from the Preparatory Committee, a group which advised the People's Republic of China (PRC) on Hong Kong's transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to the PRC in 1997. The flag was first officially hoisted on 1 July 1997, in the handover ceremony marking the transfer of sovereignty. The precise use of the flag is regulated by laws passed by the 58th executive meeting of the State Council held in Beijing. The design of the flag is enshrined in Hong Kong's Basic Law, the city's constitutional document, and regulations regarding the use, prohibition of use, desecration, and manufacture of the flag are stated in the Regional Flag and Regional Emblem Ordinance.
The design of the flag carries cultural, political and regional meanings. The colour itself is significant; red is a festive colour for the Chinese people, used to convey a sense of celebration and nationalism. Moreover, the red colour is identical to that used in the national PRC flag, chosen to signify the link re-established between post-colonial Hong Kong and China. The juxtaposition of red and white on the flag symbolises the one country two systems political principle applied to the region. The stylised rendering of the Bauhinia blakeana flower, a flower discovered in Hong Kong, is meant to serve as a harmonising symbol for this dichotomy.
|Size||Length and width in centimetres|
|1||288 × 192|
|2||240 × 160|
|3||192 × 128|
|4||144 × 96|
|5||96 × 64|
|Car flag||30 × 20|
|Flag for signing ceremonies||21 × 14|
|Desktop flag||15 × 10|
In 1843, a seal representing Hong Kong was instituted. The design was based on a local waterfront scene; three local merchants with their commercial goods can be found on the foreground, a square-rigged ship and a junk occupy the middle ground, while the background consists of conical hills and clouds. In 1868, a Hong Kong flag was produced, a Blue Ensign flag with a badge based on this "local scene", but the design was rejected by Hong Kong Governor Richard Graves MacDonnell.
In 1870, a "white crown over HK" badge for the Blue Ensign flag was proposed by the Colonial Secretary. The letters "HK" were omitted and the crown became full-colour three years later. It is unclear exactly what the badge looked like during that period of time, but it was unlikely to be the "local scene". It should have been a crown of some sort, which may, or may not, have had the letters "HK" below it. In 1876, the "local scene" badge was re-adopted to the Blue Ensign flag with the Admiralty's approval.
By 1955, the "local scene" badge in the Blue Ensign flag was revised. The new badge was similar to the 1876 badge, but had a slightly lower eye-line, and a more realistic mountain on the left-hand side. The mountain, the ship, and the junk were made more prominent and embossed.
A coat of arms for Hong Kong was granted on 21 January 1959 by the College of Arms in London. The Hong Kong flag was revised in the same year to feature the coat of arms in the Blue Ensign flag. This design was used from 1959 until Hong Kong's transfer of sovereignty in 1997.
Looking for inspiration, Ho wandered into a garden and picked up a Bauhinia blakeana flower. He observed the symmetry of the five petals, and how their winding pattern conveyed to him a dynamic feeling. This led him to incorporated the flower into the flag to represent Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong flag is flown daily from the Chief Executive's official residence, the Government House, the Hong Kong International Airport, and at all border crossings and points of entry into Hong Kong. At major government offices and buildings, such as the Office of the Chief Executive, the Executive Council, the Court of Final Appeal, the High Court, the Legislative Council, and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices overseas, the flag is displayed during days when these offices are working. Other government offices and buildings, such as hospitals, schools, departmental headquarters, sports grounds, and cultural venues should fly the flag on occasions such as the National Day of the PRC (1 October), the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day (1 July), and New Year's Day. The flag should be raised at 8:00 a.m. and lowered at 6:00 p.m. The raising and lowering of the flag should be done slowly; it must reach the peak of the flag staff when it is raised, and it may not touch the ground when it is lowered. The flag may not be raised in severe weather conditions. A Hong Kong flag that is either damaged, defaced, faded or substandard must not be displayed or used.
The Hong Kong flag must be lowered to half-staff as a token of mourning when any of the following people die:
The flag may also be flown at half-staff when the Central People's Government advises the Chief Executive to do so, or when the Chief Executive considers it appropriate to do so, on occurrences of unfortunate events causing especially serious casualties, or when serious natural calamities have caused heavy casualties. When raising a flag to be flown at half-staff, it should be first raised to the peak of the staff and then lowered to a point where the distance between the top of the flag and the peak of the staff is one third of the length of the staff. When lowering the flag from half-staff, it should be first raised to the peak of the staff before it is lowered.
The ordinance also allows for the Chief Executive to make stipulations regarding the use of the flag. In stipulations made in 1997, the Chief Executive further specified that the use of the flag in "any trade, calling or profession, or the logo, seal or badge of any non-governmental organisation" is also prohibited unless prior permission was obtained.
Leung Kwok-hung, a member of the Legislative Council (the legislative body of the Hong Kong government) and a prominent political activist in Hong Kong, was penalised for defiling the Hong Kong flag in 2001 (he was not a member of the Legislative Council at the time). He was placed on a good-behaviour bond for 12 months in the sum of HK$3,000 for dotting the flag with black marks while protesting against the handover anniversary and elections to choose the Election Committee, the electoral college which elects the Chief Executive, in Wan Chai, Admiralty and Central on 1 July and 9 July 2000.
Leung's case was the second convicted case of flag desecration in Hong Kong. The first case involved demonstrators Ng Kung Siu and Lee Kin Yun, who were found guilty of desecrating both the Hong Kong flag and the national PRC flag in a demonstration held in January 1998, for writing the word "Shame" on both flags. The case was finally decided in the Court of Final Appeal, the highest appellate court in Hong Kong, after an initial guilty verdict was overturned by the Court of Appeal.