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Flags Flying Over Hong Kong
at 4:52pm on 16th September 2014

1. Flags, Aberdeen Fire Station, Aberdeen, Hong Kong.
2. Flags and security cameras, Aberdeen Police Station, Aberdeen, Hong Kong.
3. Flags, near Star Ferry Pier, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
4. Flag outside the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong.

All photographs: John Batten.

(中文翻譯請往下看 Please scroll down to read the Chinese translation.)

After the riots of 1967, Hong Kong’s British administrators flew their flag much less often. Provocative for some, but legal at the time, hundreds of Taiwanese flags would line the length of Hennessy Road in celebration of the Double Tenth; that was, until 1997. Their appearance is furtive now. The Union Jack – the British flag – was also, prior to 1997, on the fuselage of each Cathay Pacific aircraft. It was a reminder that ‘Hong Kong’s airline’ was actually British-owned. It still is and now the flag’s absence from the company’s fleet of aircraft is a political concession, for a Hong Kong-domiciled, British airline in a place of Chinese sovereignty.

David Clarke*, fine arts teacher at Hong Kong University and artist, in his Experiencing Transition video highlights a moment when Hong Kong’s sovereignty hovered briefly between the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China at the British Crown Colony’s handover ceremony in 1997. The pause between one flag lowered and the other to be raised is, Clarke believes, “…a special in-between time of imaginary independence when Hong Kong was without signs of sovereignty….”

And now flags are really flying over Hong Kong. The decision for the placement, the showing, the flying of a flag – or not – is an unequivocal power statement. It’s about sovereignty.

Flagpoles are an architectural feature that architects rarely need to install on buildings. However, as I write, Hong Kong is having an official construction spree of flagpole installation on government buildings. Pairs of flagpoles, one slightly stooped beneath the other, each regally topped with bright gold anodized gold balls, are appearing on Hong Kong’s most prominent community facilities: fire and police stations - and other government-run buildings.

I associate flags with borders, legislatures, national or extra-territorial places and institutions. On residential buildings, a flag generally announces the occupant’s national pride or its extreme, nationalism. I suspect the latter is the motivation for Hong Kong’s flag-poling surge.

It is, at this time of debates about HKSAR Chief Executive and legislative electoral reform, a delicate matter. I can’t see, in this climate, officials’ enthusiasm for flags to be: flagged.

* See David Clarke’s Experiencing Transition:



在香港大學教授藝術的藝術家祈大衛(David Clarke)便在他所拍的《Experiencing Transition》一片,紀錄了1997年的主權交接儀式,更捕捉了香港主權徘徊中英之間的一剎。David認為,在米字旗落下、五星旗未懸之時,「⋯香港彷彿進入了特殊的獨立狀態,並不屬於任何一國。」





若要觀看 祈大衛(David Clarke)的《Experiencing Transition》,可登上

This article was originally published in Perspective architectural magazine, September 2014.



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