The Ping Shek Estate has long been a magnet for Instagrammers eager to take snapshots of the sky framed on all four sides by the apartment complex’s soaring residential towers.
Last Friday, hundreds of crimson Chinese flags appeared on the white balconies on two 28-story buildings in the complex. Each Chinese flag was flanked by two Hong Kong flags, depicting the city’s emblem: a white bauhinia blossom with a star on each petal.
A pro-Beijing association distributed the flags across several housing projects, according to a state-owned Hong Kong newspaper, Ta Kung Pao. The especially abundant sea of flags at Ping Shek soon became the talk of the town.
People traveled to Ping Shek, home to about 30,000 residents living in nearly 4,500 government-subsided apartments, to take photos of the spectacle, and residents of the industrial neighborhood admired the display in the square courtyards.
“It’s rare to 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 China’s mainland nearly a decade ago.
She said her 8-year-old son had been learning about the handover in class and that she wanted to take a photo of him to mark the occasion.
Lam Yu, a 62-year-old salesman of equipment for mechanical engineering, paid a visit to see the flags. He craned his neck and angled his smartphone toward the sky to take photos.
To him, the handover meant an end to being a second-class citizen in his own city, he said, adding that it was hard watching people from Britain get vaunted positions in the civil service while more qualified Hong Kong locals were passed over.
Initially apprehensive about how the Communist Party’s policies would affect the city’s prospects, Mr. Lam said, he was eventually blown away by China’s economic rise.
“There’s no way you can look at China’s development and not feel pride,” he said. “Unless you don’t consider yourself Chinese.”
Not everyone appeared to appreciate the display of fealty to Beijing, though. Some residents hung bedsheets that broke up the pattern of flags.
Elsie Leung, a 63-year-old retired security guard, lamented that her building in a neighboring block could not be decked out with flags because residents there had complained.
Although several acquaintances from her church had emigrated, she said, she felt positive about the city’s future.
Still, Ms. Leung felt uneasy about the suppression of freedoms, especially after the closure of independent news outlets and the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen under the national security law. The cardinal was a leader in a legal aid organization that provided support to people arrested for protesting.
“If you say the wrong thing, you could get arrested,” she said.
The police said early Sunday morning that they were investigating reports of flags being defaced or stolen from Ping Shek and another complex nearby. No arrests have been made, but all the flags had been taken down by Monday morning.