Flag of Hong Kong (1959–1997)
The Flag of Hong Kong between 1959 and 1997 was a Blue Ensign with the coat of arms of Hong Kong on a white disk. In Hong Kong, it is also nicknamed the Hong Kong flag (香港旗) or the Dragon and Lion flag (龍獅旗). In 1959, following a grant from the College of Arms and with the consent of Queen Elizabeth II, it was adopted as the flag of British Hong Kong. While the flag lost its official status following 1 July 1997 transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, it resurfaced in the 2010s as a symbol of protest against Chinese rule in Hong Kong and Hong Kong independence.
|Name||Hong Kong flag|
Dragon and Lion flag
|Use||Civil and state flag|
|Adopted||29 July 1959|
|Design||A Blue Ensign with the coat of arms of Hong Kong on a white disk|
|Designed by||Geoffrey Cadzow Hamilton|
Variant flag of British Hong Kong
|Name||Flag of the Governor of Hong Kong|
|Adopted||29 July 1959|
|Design||A Union Flag defaced with the coat of arms.|
Creation and usageEdit
Before the Second World War, Hong Kong had no official flag and used a series of blue ensigns with different flag badges. Following the war, the Governor of Hong Kong Robert Black decided to gain an official grant of arms to use on Hong Kong's flag. Designed in 1958 by Geoffrey Cadzow Hamilton, managing officer of the civil service, the flag was approved by the Executive Council of Hong Kong, and then by the College of Arms with minor amendments. The arms on the flag were designed with Chinese junks, a naval crown, and a lion and dragon as supporters, with a crowned lion crest on the helm holding a pearl; this was a reference to Hong Kong's nickname as the "Pearl of the Orient". Queen Elizabeth II granted a Royal Warrant for the coat of arms, which was presented to Governor Black by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The Queen's Counsellors of State later gave permission on her behalf for the arms to be used on a blue ensign as the colony's flag.
Ships registered in Hong Kong flew the Hong Kong blue ensign and were able to use the British red ensign as an identifier. The flag was used to represent Hong Kong in sports, including at the Olympic Games, although the British national anthem, "God Save the Queen", was used for gold medallists. The flag had no specific legal protections; there were no laws prohibiting desecration of the flag, despite it being Hong Kong's national flag.
Following the planned transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, plans were drawn up in the 1990s for a new flag to replace the blue ensign. Following a public competition, a red flag with a bauhinia was chosen as the new flag of Hong Kong. This new flag gained formal legal status replacing the blue ensign at the handover on 1 July 1997.
Following the Hong Kong handover ceremony, when the Union Jack and the Hong Kong blue ensign were lowered to symbolise the end of British rule in Hong Kong, the blue ensign lost its official status and was replaced by the current flag of Hong Kong. In the 2010s, the former flag of Hong Kong was used by protesters to represent the cultural differences between Hong Kong and China; the flag was also used to protest against Chinese interference in Hong Kong, as well as perceived Chinese breaches of Hong Kong's universal suffrage (granted by the Sino-British Joint Declaration). The first high-profile use of the old flag in protests came in 2011 during pro-democracy protests. Protesters often stated that they did not use the blue ensign to endorse Hong Kong independence or the return of Hong Kong to British control, but rather because they felt that Hong Kong had greater freedom under British rule. The protesters also said that they used the flag to express the contrasting values of China and Hong Kong. Advocates of the Hong Kong Independence Movement and the Hong Kong Autonomy Movement use a derivative of the blue ensign, without the British Union Jack and with the Chinese characters for Hong Kong (香港) in the centre of the arms rather than the standard English "Hong Kong". The right to display the old flag is protected under the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and the Hong Kong Basic Law as an expression of free speech. Despite this, when the old flag began appearing in protests, pro-Beijing newspapers called for it to be banned. The pro-Beijing camp views the flag as a symbol of colonialism and a reminder of China's losses during the era of New Imperialism.
The then Chief Executive of Hong Kong, C.Y. Leung, requested that people not use the blue ensign as a symbol of protest against government, stating: "People unhappy with the government don't need to wave the British flag to express discontent". China's Politburo Standing Committee member, Yu Zhengsheng, stated that "The Chinese people will not accept some Hongkongers waving the colonial flag" to protest against Chinese citizens going to Hong Kong to give birth. Critics also stated that the usage of the blue ensign was based on a selective view of British rule in Hong Kong, instead referencing early segregation and the imposition of martial law during the 1967 Hong Kong riots.
Despite being a popular protest flag, the leaders of the Umbrella Movement requested that participants of the movement not use the flag, as they intended to protest without intentionally provoking Chinese authorities or the Hong Kong Police Force. The flag has also been used outside of Hong Kong; in the United Kingdom, the blue ensign has been used as a symbol of protest to pressure the government of the United Kingdom to ensure the Sino-British Joint Declaration is fulfilled.
During the 2019 Hong Kong anti-extradition bill protests, when protesters broke into the Legislative Council Complex they draped the British Hong Kong flag over the desk of the President of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong at the head of the chamber.
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