The Colors and Meaning of the Hong Kong Flag
Officially named “the regional flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China,” the flag of Hong Kong features a white flower on a red background. The flower is centered in the middle of the flag and has five petals, each with a red star.
There is a great deal of symbolism in the Hong Kong flag, and much of it relates to Hong Kong’s official status as a Special Administrative Region of China, a relationship often described as “one country, two systems.”
This connection between Hong Kong and China can be seen in the similarities between the flags of each. There are references to the design of the Chinese flag in the Hong Kong flag, and we’ll take more of an in-depth look at each of these.
As described in school curriculum by the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Education Bureau:
“The design implies that Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China and prospers in the embrace of the motherland. The five stars on the flower symbolize the fact that all Hong Kong compatriots love their motherland, while the red and white colors embody the principle of “one country, two systems”.”
The white flower in the middle of the flag is a stylized representation of the flower from Bauhinia x blakeana, commonly called the Hong Kong Orchid Tree. The tree is native to Hong Kong, and the five petals of the flower on the flag each have a red star.
The use of the flower in the center of the flag is said to represent the harmonization of the relationship between Hong Kong and China.
The five stars that appear on the petals of the orchid flower echo the design of the Chinese national flag, which also features five stars. These stars on the official flag of China symbolize the unity of the Chinese people and that they should revolve around a center. The fact that both flags feature five stars represents the closeness and relationship between Hong Kong and China.
White and red colors:
The red color used on the Hong Kong flag is the exact same red used on the national flag of China. This is another example of flag design showing a strong link between Hong Kong and China. The red on the flag of China represents the Chinese Communist Revolution according to the Chinese government’s official interpretation.
Red is also significant because it is a festive color for Chinese people and can represent a feeling of celebration and nationalism.
Hong Kong Flag Map
Below is an outline of Hong Kong that has been filled in with the design of the Hong Kong flag.
Hong Kong Flag FAQs
How old is Hong Kong’s flag?
The official flag of Hong Kong was adopted in 1990, but it was first flown in 1997 after the transfer of sovereignty over the region from the United Kingdom back to China. The design was created by architect Tao Ho.
Why does Hong Kong have its own flag?
Hong Kong has its own flag because it is a special administrative region of China. This means that, while it isn’t officially an independent nation, it does enjoy a degree of autonomy. The flag’s symbolism shows a link between Hong Kong and China.
Is Hong Kong a country?
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. The region has been under the control of various powers over the last two hundred years: the Qing Dynasty, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China. The sovereignty of Hong Kong was returned to China from the United Kingdom on July 1, 1997.
What is the conflict between Hong Kong and China?
Conflicts between Hong Kong and China usually stem from cultural and economic differences between the two entities. Many residents of Hong Kong have different values from those living in mainland China due to decades of British influence.
One of the most recent and largest conflicts between the two was the mass protests of 2019 and 2020 in which roughly two million Hong Kong residents reportedly participated. The protests were in response to the proposal of an extradition bill that would enable the extradition of dissidents to mainland China from Hong Kong.
History of the Hong Kong Flag
The history of Hong Kong is reflected in the several flags that have flown in the territory over the past two hundred years. We’ll take a look at some of the flags of Hong Kong’s past as well as the development of the current flag’s design.
Qing Dynasty Flag: 1862–1895
In pre-colonial times, Hong Kong was ruled by the Qing Dynasty and flew its flag, which consisted of an “Azure Dragon” over a yellow background with a red circle in the upper-left-hand corner. Interestingly, the dynasty didn’t have an official flag until 1862 despite being established in 1644.
Colonial Flags: 1843–1997
Following the United Kingdom’s possession of Hong Kong in 1841, various colonial flags featuring the Union Jack of the UK were flown. The design of the colonial flags changed several times during this period, often displaying different seals next to the Union Jack.
There was also a period during World War II when Hong Kong was under the control of Japan from 1941-1945. The Japanese flag was flown during this time, and the UK again took control of Hong Kong after the war.
Current Flag of Hong Kong: 1990–Present
The design of the current official flag of Hong Kong was officially adopted in 1990, though it was first hoisted and flown in 1997. In the years leading up to Hong Kong’s transfer of sovereignty to China, a competition was held to come up with what would be the design of Hong Kong’s new flag.
The competition was open to citizens of Hong Kong and nearly 4,500 flag designs were submitted. From these submissions, six finalists were chosen by a panel of judges, but all of these were then rejected by China. After requesting more designs, the design submitted by architect Tao Ho was officially accepted in 1990.
Although the design of Hong Kong’s current flag was decided in 1990, it wasn’t until 1997 that it was first flown. This happened just after the handover ceremony of sovereignty at midnight on the first of July, 1997.
About Hong Kong
Hong Kong consists of more than 200 islands and the Kowloon Peninsula along China’s southern coast. The main islands are Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island.
Hong Kong has an interesting political status. Technically, it is a city and also a special administrative region of China. This means that it has a degree of autonomy but is still under the control of China. Specifically, China oversees the diplomatic and military affairs of Hong Kong, while Hong Kong has its own legislature, police forces, customs territory, immigration policies, and more. Macau is China’s only other special administrative region.
The population of Hong Kong in 2022 is roughly 7.76 million, which makes it one of the most densely populated cities on Earth. Hong Kong is also known for being one of the most highly developed cities in the world and a major global financial center. Its current status as a developed economic powerhouse is a far cry from its history as a sparsely populated area made up of fishing villages. It’s now one of the most expensive countries in the world.
Hong Kong is culturally distinct from the Chinese mainland because of its many years of colonial administration. For this reason, it’s often considered a meeting of East and West. The dominant language in the region is Cantonese, and the official languages are Chinese and English.
Interesting cuisine, exciting nightlife, and easily accessible natural parks are some of the reasons Hong Kong made the list of the most-visited countries in the world. Tourism is an important part of the city’s economy, and it is more popular among foreign tourists than any other Chinese city.
Hong Kong is located in the Pearl River Delta, where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea. It’s located along the southern coast of China, sharing its only land border with the Chinese province of Guangdong.
Macao, China’s other special administrative region, is located on the other side of the Pearl River Delta. This metropolitan area is one of the most urbanized areas in the world and is considered a megacity with over 78 million people living in the region.
The closest neighboring countries are Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Hong Kong Flag in Recent History
The mass protests that took place in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020 saw the unofficial use of some new flags. One was named the “Black Bauhinia” and is a depiction of the same white Bauhinia flower that is displayed on the Hong Kong flag but without the red stars and on a black background instead of red. Some petals of the flower are also wilting. The flag is a symbol of protest and rebellion.
Another unofficial flag unveiled during the protests was the “Lennon Wall Flag,” designed by Badiucao, a Chinese cartoonist. The flag is a mosaic of 96 colorful squares and was inspired by the Lennon Wall message boards that cropped up in Hong Kong and around the world during the 2014 Umbrella Movement Protests and the 2019-2020 protests.