The Ping Shek Estate has long been a magnet for Instagrammers eager to snap snapshots of the sky framed on all four sides by the towering residential towers of the apartment complex.
Last Friday, hundreds of crimson Chinese flags appeared on the white balconies of two 28-story buildings in the complex. Each Chinese flag was flanked by two Hong Kong flags, bearing the city’s emblem: a white bauhinia blossom with a star on each petal.
According to Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong state newspaper, a pro-Beijing association has spread the flags across several housing projects. The particularly lavish sea of flags at Ping Shek quickly became the talk of the town.
People traveled to Ping Shek, home to about 30,000 residents living in nearly 4,500 government-subsidized apartments, to capture photos of the spectacle, and residents of the industrial district admired the display in the square courtyards.
“You rarely see this kind of culture in Hong Kong,” said Grace Zhang, a 35-year-old resident who moved to the city from neighboring Guangdong province in mainland China nearly a decade ago.
She said her 8-year-old son had learned about the transmission in class and that she wanted to take a picture of him to mark the occasion.
Lam Yu, a 62-year-old salesman of mechanical engineering equipment, paid a visit to view the flags. He stretched his neck and held his smartphone up to the sky to take pictures.
For him, the transfer marked an end to being a second-class citizen in his own city, he said, adding that it was difficult to watch people from Britain get prized positions in the civil service while more qualified Hong Kong residents were passed.
Initially concerned about the influence of Communist Party policies on the city’s prospects, Mr Lam said, he was eventually blown away by China’s economic rise.
“You can’t possibly look at China’s development without being proud,” he said. “Unless you don’t consider yourself Chinese.”
Not everyone seemed to appreciate the show of loyalty to Beijing, however. Some residents hung sheets that broke the flag pattern.
Elsie Leung, a 63-year-old retired security guard, complained that her building in an adjacent block could not be decorated with flags because residents there had complained.
Although several acquaintances had emigrated from her church, she said she was positive about the city’s future.
Yet Mrs. Leung is uneasy about the suppression of freedoms, especially after the shutdown of independent news channels and the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen under national security law. The cardinal was a leader in a legal aid organization that provided support to people arrested for protest.
“If you say the wrong thing, you could be arrested,” she said.
Police said early Sunday morning they were investigating reports of flags damaged or stolen from Ping Shek and another complex nearby. No arrests were made, but all flags had been lowered by Monday morning.