A Hong Kong protester’s decision to tear down a Chinese flag and throw it in Victoria Harbour on Saturday set off an outpouring of criticism, from Chinese internet users and celebrities to pro-Beijing businesses and schools in the city. Then on Monday at about 7pm, a group of protesters went to the same flagstaff in Tsim Sha Tsui, tore down the flag again and threw it into the harbour, the second such incident in three days. In both cases, the protesters escaped. In North Point, the Pui Kiu Middle School organised a flag-raising ceremony at the campus on Monday even though the school was officially on summer holidays. Principal Ng Wun-kit said teachers and students were called back on short notice to take part. “We saw [on the news] that some rioters in helmets threw the Chinese national flag in the harbour and we strongly condemn such behaviour. It was disrespectful,” Ng said. “We wanted to show that we are one of the 1.4 billion Chinese people who want to protect the national flag. We hope that the students, teachers and [Hong Kong] citizens who love the country and the Chinese Communist Party can respect the Chinese flag.” Other Hong Kong businesses and organisations flying the Chinese flag on Monday included international hotel chain Courtyard by Marriott Hong Kong, Chinese engineering firm Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries and Chinese pharmaceutical giant Beijing Tong Ren Tang. Beijing’s Hong Kong affairs office condemns protesters who threw Chinese flag in the sea A spokeswoman from the hotel chain said it had flown the flag for many years and Monday was no exception. “We display the flag because we are a Chinese-funded company. We do not have plans to take it down any time soon,” she said. On Sunday, a group of Beijing supporters sang the national anthem and raised the Chinese flag in Tsim Sha Tsui to replace the one taken down. On microblogging site Weibo, mainland Chinese and Hong Kong celebrities were among those forwarding pictures of the flag or salutes to it, adding the hashtag “the Chinese national flag has 1.4 billion flag bearers”, a topic started by China Central Television (CCTV) on Sunday. As of Monday night, the trending topic had been read more than 2 billion times, with more than 8 million posts and support from Hong Kong actors Jackie Chan, Jordan Chan Siu-chun and Hawick Lau Hoi-Wai. In a commentary published online on Sunday, CCTV said the topic had attracted a strong response because patriotism ran deep among the Chinese people. “We protect the flag, the national emblem, our country, and we protect our country like we protect our own homes,” it said. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam blasts violence at Yuen Long and liaison office, amid further extradition bill unrest Analysts said the mood on Chinese social media had changed as protesters in Hong Kong vandalised symbols of the central government, crossing a line for most mainland Chinese. Wang Jiangyu, an associate law professor at the National University of Singapore, said that although many mainlanders had admired Hong Kong and sympathised with its civil movements in the past, the situation had changed. “The Chinese flag being insulted is on the top of a list of things mainlanders dislike, and for state media, which represent the central government’s position, focusing on such issues can frame the protesters as enemies of the Chinese nation or the people,” Wang said. “It can increase the hatred of mainlanders towards the Hong Kong protesters and gain support for the central government to take action in the future.” Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said mainland media were using the incident to achieve their own propaganda purposes. “Mainland media made it seem like [the flag protest was] the theme for the whole movement … but it does not represent the main demands of the anti-extradition movement. They are turning single actions into broad propaganda, and biasing mainland sentiment about Hong Kong,” Ma said.