Hong Kong protesters are waving a new flag. Here’s what to know and why it’s controversial

Hong Kong protesters wave flags at Pacific Place mall in Admiralty on June 15, 2020. Photo via Stromile Li for Daily Record/Facebook
Hong Kong protesters wave flags at Pacific Place mall in Admiralty on June 15, 2020. Photo via Stromile Li for Daily Record/Facebook

Whether a mass march or a lunchtime shopping mall demonstration, flags have become an established sight at Hong Kong protests.

They’re as varied as they are common. At any given demonstration, one might see the black bauhinia flag, the Hong Kong independence flag, the “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” flag, the city’s colonial-era flag, the flags of other countries—usually the US and the UK—or a combination of the above.

Now, there’s a new addition to the list. For the first time, protesters this week flew a blue and white flag at demonstrations. But online commentary about it is mixed, with some saying the colors don’t represent the pro-democracy movement.

What does the new flag look like?

Photo via LIHKG

Consisting of just two colors, the design of the flag is simple: the upper half is navy blue while the lower part is white. So far, netizens have not designated a name to the insignia, calling it plainly the blue and white flag.

Where has it been spotted?

The flag was flown for the first time on June 15 during a memorial for Marco Leung. That day, protesters gathered at Pacific Place mall in Admiralty to mark one year since Leung fell to his death while unfurling a banner outside the shopping center.

https://www.facebook.com/flashmediahk/posts/176220133856659

 

The next day, protesters waved the flag at the atrium of IFC, where a lunchtime demonstration was held. The flag has also been spotted at Landmark, another mall in Central.

One protestor who asked to go by “V” told Coconuts HK that the flag, which he saw at IFC on Tuesday, delivers “a positive message: To fight for the future, to fight for the independence of Hong Kong.”

The flag didn’t reveal itself overnight—a LIHKG thread suggesting its design actually dates back to June 28 last year, but didn’t gain much traction. The topic was brought up again in October, this time met with more than 1,200 comments. The user who posted the thread said it represents the “provisional government of Hong Kong.”

What does it symbolize?

According to an editorial on Stand News, the color blue stands for freedom while white represents democracy and independence.

Daily Record, an online news source that reports primarily on the anti-government movement, wrote in a Facebook post that “the upper blue symbolizes the Hong Kong’s past as a British’s colony as well as symbolizes freedom. White color reinstates the urge of a peaceful life that many Hong Kongers look for.”

Kwong, a protester who asked to go by his last name, told Coconuts: “The new flag marks the beginning of new phase that Hong Kong independence has became a mainstream idea.”

A digital rendition of a flag design. Photo via LIHKG
A digital rendition of a flag design. Photo via LIHKG

Why are some LIHKG netizens criticizing the flag?

Since Monday, at least seven new threads have been created to discuss the flag. Some users praise its design, saying that it is eye-catching and simple to replicate. But the commentary is split, with many criticizing the choice of colors for being too closely associated with the pro-government camp.

“Impression-wise, blue and white is nice. But I can’t help but think of 721,” one user said, referring to the July 21 incident last year when dozens of suspected triad members wearing white attacked protesters in Yuen Long.

And in protest speak, to be a “blue ribbon” means to be a supporter of the government and the police force.

There were also comments that blue and white are traditionally used as funeral colors. Yellow and black, they said, would be more suitable.

But some argued that popularizing a blue and white flag would allow the protest movement to “reclaim” those colors from the pro-establishment camp. They also added that blue is widely recognized as representative of the localism and independence movement. (Hong Kong Indigenous, a radical localist group, uses blue as its symbolic color.)

One LIHKG user got specific: “’Blue ribbons are light blue, not localism’s [shade of darker] blue. We have to take back both [shades of] blue.”

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