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Hong Kong

Xianggang, 香港

Last modified: 2023-08-05 by ian macdonald
Keywords: hong kong | bauhinia |
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[Flag of Hong Kong] image by Martin Grieve and António Martins-Tuválkin, 25 April 2016

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A brief synopsis on the flag law

(from ):

The correct use of the Chinese national flag and the regional flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) have been determined in regulations passed by the 58th executive meeting of the State Council, held here [in Beijing] on Thursday.
In accordance with the National Flag Law of the People's Republic of China, the regulations demand that when the national flag and regional flag of the Hong Kong SAR are raised or used at the same time, the national flag should be at the central, a higher or prominent position.
When the two flags are used at the same time and placed side by side, the national flag should be larger than the regional flag, with the national flag taking the right position and the regional flag taking the left.
In procession, the national flag should be raised in front of the regional flag, according to the regulations.
The regulations will be put into effect on July 1.

Thanh-Tâm Lę, 22 December 1998

The Hong Kong SAR flag and emblem were adopted on Feb 16th 1990 and passed the preparatory committee of Hong Kong SAR on Aug 10th 1996 and first officially hoisted on Jul 1st 1997 when Hong Kong was returned from the U.K. to China.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 21 August 2004

The flag was adopted and by the committee which was drafting the Basic Law of the future region. Ordinance No. 117 dated on the date of return to Chinese rule, confirmed the flag and gave detailed construction details in Appendix 2.
Christopher Southworth, 22 August 2004

The flower on the flag is the Hong Kong Orchid Tree (Bauhinia Blakeana) - named after the British Governor of Hong Kong from 1898 to 1903, Sir Henry Blake, a keen botanist who discovered it near Pokfulam, Hong Kong Island, in 1880.
The actual flowers are bright pinkish purple, not white as on the flag.
If I remember my botany it is normally sterile and can only be propagated by cuttings (there is one tree that is said to produce seeds). Actually it is neither a tree nor an orchid, it's a member of the Class leguminosae (the pea family). The genus is named in honor of the Swiss botanists of the 16th and 17th centuries, the Bauhin brothers.
Graham Bartram, 20 August 2004


The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) flag shall always be flown on the dexter side of the Chinese National Flag, even when there are only two flag poles available. (This is the opposite of the standard Western practice, where when there is an even number of flag poles, regional flags are flown on the sinister side of the national flag.) Officially, the HKSAR flag should be smaller, and flown on a shorter flag pole, than the Chinese National Flag.
Most government offices fly only the HKSAR flag (in contrast to the former British practice of flying only the Union Jack). Sometimes departmental flags are also flown, on either side of the HKSAR flag. The Legislative Council flies both the Chinese National Flag and the HKSAR Flag as prescribed above, whereas installations of the People's Liberation Army fly only the Chinese National Flag. (Note the political meanings of all these flag-flying arrangements.)
At sea, HKSAR government vessels fly only the HKSAR flag as the ensign. Civilian vessels fly either the HKSAR flag, or the Chinese National Flag above the HKSAR Flag.
Miles Li, 10 May 2007

Reports on use on seagoing vessels

[Ed: The following information is included for historical purposes, further elaborated upon by the protocol section, above.]

On 10 Nov. 1999, Jan Oskar Engene sent to FOTW the Chinese law on National Flag :..Article 11 Measures for the display of the National Flag by civilian vessels or foreign vessels entering Chinese territorial waters.. On 1 December 1998, Lloyd's List advertised for the Hong Kong shipping register with a picture of the Chinese National Flag over the Bauhinia Flag. On 1 December 2000, the same newspaper had a photo of Hong Kong MV "Xin Qiang", showing the Chinese National Flag over the Bauhinia Flag.
Yet on 6 February 2001, the same newspaper had a photo of Hong Kong MV "MSC Hamburg", showing the Bauhinia Flag alone. On 2 February 1999, the French Consul General in Hong Kong sent me two photos of launches in Hong Kong harbour showing Bauhinia Flag alone.
So, I think that in practice both possibilities exist for the Civil Ensign, the Bauhinia Flag alone or the Bauhinia Flag under the Chinese national Flag
Armand du Payrat, 28 June 2001

[One] [photo] I recently took in the US Northwest shows the stern of the merchant ship Abbot Point, registered in Hong Kong. She is flying Chinese ensign above the Hong Kong ensign on the staff.
Peter Ansoff, 19 September 2006

Double ensign of Hong Kong

[Double ensign of Hong Kong] image located by Željko Heimer, 16 May 2010

It seems that the practice of flying two ensign of Hong Kong, which we report on is well established. Here is an example, a photo attached (and resized to fit FOTW-ml) I received from Robert Grubiąa from Rijeka.
About a month ago, a large car-carrier was refurbished in the Rijeka "3. maj" shipyards after 9 months and transferred to its HK owners. A report on that (with another photo of the flag exchange ceremony) can be found at
The flag exchange ceremony was performed, when the Croatian ensign was replaced with that of the new owners - actually with two ensigns, that of the PR China and the HKSAR hoisted one over the other. The photo attached show the final result (and if you look closer, the neatly folded HR flag is set down near the flag staff).
Anyway, flying two ensigns at the same time is not usual maritime practice, in fact, if I am not much mistaken, it is not considered appropriate, even if one is subordinate to the other. Or am I wrong? Is the situation in Macao the same?
Željko Heimer, 16 May 2010

It is unusual, but follows a practice established in colonial Hong Kong. The Hong Kong (Legislative Powers) Order of 1986 allowed the Governor of Hong Kong to initiate legislation relating to, among other things, merchant shipping. This led to the Hong Kong Merchant Shipping (Registration) Ordinance of 1990. Vessels on the register were required to wear, on the same staff, the plain Red Ensign above the Hong Kong Blue Ensign. It seems that the requirement was widely ignored, and a Red Ensign defaced with the badge from the Honk Kong Blue Ensign was flown instead.
David Prothero, 16 May 2010

David's comments on the double Hong Kong ensign are perfectly correct. Such usage was, indeed, rare, but the ferries plying between Hong Kong and Macao invariably flew both the red ensign and the colonial blue from the same staff at the stern of the vessel. When entering Macao waters, the Portuguese flag was hoisted at the yard-arm.
Occasionally, one saw the red and blue ensigns both defaced with the colonial arms flown in this manner, though usually, the defaced red was to be seen flying at the yard-arm of foreign-registered vessels entering Hong Kong waters.
Željko asks about the practice in Macao. Before 1999, I seem to recall that only the Portuguese flag was flown, Macao in those days not having a local equivalent of Hong Kong's blue or red ensigns. I am not sure of the position today. Macao does now have a regional flag and this may indeed be flown in conjunction with the Chinese national flag in a manner similar to that which pertains in Hong Kong.
I'll be going over to Macao later this week and will keep my eyes open. Watch this space.
Peter Johnson, 17 May 2010

Flag raising in Hong Kong

I offer a YouTube link which nicely illustrates my comments on how flags are now raised in Hong Kong.
You will note that the uniforms, drill and commands continue to follow the British pattern, the only novelty being the flourish with which the flags are cast away.
The more observant amongst you will note that, towards the end of the clip, other Chinese and Hong Kong flags can be seen already flying at full staff further down the promenade. I doubt very much that these would have been hoisted in the same dramatic fashion and am at a loss to explain why they were hoisted before the two flags 'officially' hauled up in the clip.
A further illustration, I suspect, of the oft-found divergence that arises between practice as prescribed in regulations and that which actually takes place.
Peter Johnson, 12 July 2010

Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Hong Kong: PMS 186 red. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012