Officials yesterday ordered the owners of a Sai Kung pub to take down a tribute to the victims of September 11. Duke of York owners Una Wong and Mike Wilkinson had five flags - three for the United States flanked by one each for Britain and the SAR - hoisted on a flower bed outside their pub. A Leisure and Cultural Services Department officer told them to take down the flags, saying they were on government land. Ms Wong last night pledged to keep the flags flying to show 'heartfelt respect and sympathy' for those killed. The department officer said the publicans had no permit for the flags. 'We cannot allow this,' the officer said. 'If everyone put something on government land then it would be in a mess.' 'If they want to put something on government land they must make an application and get approval first.' Ms Wong's sister and cousin narrowly avoided the World Trade Centre collapse. 'My sister was working in the building next door and managed to get out. My cousin also worked in the World Trade Centre but was late to work that morning,' she said. 'It is very close to our hearts. A lot of Hong Kong people have friends or relatives in New York, so we just wanted to show our respect because the event is still recent in everyone's minds.' She said they did not realise government approval was needed for the memorial, which they had planned to take down on Thursday. 'We are not damaging any public property, and we think they should show leniency, considering the nature of the event.' Mr Wilkinson said the memorial had been arranged with the US flag in the middle at full mast as a 'symbol of American defiance against terrorism'. 'The others are at half mast as a mark of respect to all of those people who died. We just cannot believe the bureaucracy of the government. Their thinking is so ridiculous and inflexible.' A department spokeswoman said she did not know if its officers would take down the flags or fine the publicans. 'Our staff advised the owner to submit his application to the Lands Department,' she said.