The flag of Hong Kong was adopted on 16 February 1990. On 10 August 1996, it received formal approval from the , a group which advised the People's Republic of China on from the United Kingdom to the PRC in 1997. The flag was first officially hoisted on 1 July 1997, in the marking the transfer of sovereignty. The precise use of the flag is regulated by laws passed by the 58th executive meeting of the held in Beijing. The design of the flag is enshrined in Hong Kong's , the city's constitutional document, and regulations regarding the use, prohibition of use, , and manufacture of the flag are stated in the Regional Flag and Regional Emblem Ordinance.
The design of the flag carries cultural, political and regional meanings. The colour itself is significant; red is a festive colour for the Chinese people, used to convey a sense of celebration and nationalism. Moreover, the red colour is identical to that used in the , chosen to signify the link re-established between post-colonial Hong Kong and China. The juxtaposition of red and white on the flag symbolises the ''one country two systems'' political principle applied to the region. The stylised rendering of the ''Bauhinia blakeana'' flower, a flower discovered in Hong Kong, is meant to serve as a harmonising symbol for this dichotomy.
Prior to Hong Kong's transfer of sovereignty, the flag of Hong Kong was a colonial Blue Ensign flag. The flag of colonial Hong Kong underwent several changes in the last one and a half centuries.
In 1843, a representing Hong Kong was instituted. The design was based on a local waterfront scene; three local merchants with their commercial goods can be found on the foreground, a square-rigged ship and a junk occupy the middle ground, while the background consists of conical hills and clouds. In 1868, a Hong Kong flag was produced, a Blue Ensign flag with a badge based on this "local scene", but the design was rejected by Richard Graves MacDonnell.
In 1870, a "white crown over HK" badge for the Blue Ensign flag was proposed by the . The letters "HK" were omitted and the crown became full-colour three years later. Six designs were chosen as finalists by the judges, but were all later rejected by the PRC. Ho and two others were then asked by the PRC to submit new proposals. At major government offices and buildings, such as the Office of the Chief Executive, the , the Court of Final Appeal, the , the , and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices overseas, the flag is displayed during days when these offices are working. Other government offices and buildings, such as hospitals, schools, departmental headquarters, sports grounds, and cultural venues should fly the flag on occasions such as the , the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Establishment Day , and New Year's Day. A Hong Kong flag that is either damaged, defaced, faded or substandard must not be displayed or used.
Displayed together with the national flag
Whenever the national PRC flag is flown together with the regional Hong Kong flag, the national flag must be flown at the centre, above the regional flag, or otherwise in a more prominent position than that of the regional flag. The regional flag must be smaller in size than the national flag, and it must be displayed to the left of the national flag. When the flags are displayed inside a building, the left and right sides of a person looking at the flags, and with his or her back toward the wall, are used as reference points for the left and right sides of a flag. When the flags are displayed outside a building, the left and right sides of a person standing in front of the building and looking towards the front entrance are used as reference points for the left and right sides of a flag. The national flag should be raised before the regional flag is raised, and it should be lowered after the regional flag is lowered.
*President of the People's Republic of China
*Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress
*Chairman of the Central Military Commission
*Chairman of the
*Persons who have made outstanding contributions to the People's Republic of China as the Central People's Government advises the Chief Executive.
*Persons who have made outstanding contributions to world peace or the cause of human progress as the Central People's Government advises the Chief Executive.
*Persons whom the Chief Executive considers have made outstanding contributions to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or for whom he considers it appropriate to do so.
The flag may also be flown at half-staff when the Central People's Government advises the Chief Executive to do so, or when the Chief Executive considers it appropriate to do so, on occurrences of unfortunate events causing especially serious casualties, or when serious natural calamities have caused heavy casualties. and that "publicly and wilfully burning, mutilating, scrawling on, defiling or trampling" the flag is considered flag desecration.
The ordinance also allows for the Chief Executive to make stipulations regarding the use of the flag. In stipulations made in 1997, the Chief Executive further specified that the use of the flag in "any trade, calling or profession, or the logo, seal or badge of any non-governmental organisation" is also prohibited unless prior permission was obtained.
Leung Kwok-hung, a member of the Legislative Council and a prominent political activist in Hong Kong, was penalised for defiling the Hong Kong flag in 2001 . He was placed on a good-behaviour bond for 12 months in the sum of HK$3,000 for dotting the flag with black marks while protesting against the handover anniversary and elections to choose the Election Committee, the electoral college which elects the Chief Executive, in Wan Chai, and on 1 July and 9 July 2000.
Leung's case was the second convicted case of flag desecration in Hong Kong. The first case involved demonstrators Ng Kung Siu and Lee Kin Yun, who were found guilty of desecrating both the Hong Kong flag and the national PRC flag in a demonstration held in January 1998, for writing the word "Shame" on both flags. The case was finally decided in the Court of Final Appeal, the highest appellate court in Hong Kong, after an initial guilty verdict was overturned by the .