It’s easier to spot China’s red flag with five yellow stars these days in Hong Kong than it is to spot the territory’s own.
From the t-shirt of a tai chi master on a misty morning practice to a cushion in the offices of a vocal pro-democracy lawmaker across town, the flag’s prominence is a reminder of Beijing’s growing influence over the former British colony – although it’s not always as powerful a symbol as it seems.
“I sit on it!” laughed Claudia Mo, the lawmaker in question.
But China’s reach in Hong Kong has prompted a much more serious row over a new extradition bill proposed last month that would allow the extradition of suspects, including foreign nationals, to the mainland for the first time.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed concern on Thursday about the impact the proposal would have on British citizens in Hong Kong and the territory’s reputation as an international hub in a joint statement with his Canadian counterpart, Chrystia Freeland.
“We are concerned about the potential effect of these proposals on the large number of UK and Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, on business confidence and on Hong Kong’s international reputation,” the statement read.
Britain and Canada said it was vital that the extradition arrangements in Hong Kong were in line with the “one country, two systems” formula agreed when the colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.