Colonial history won't be waived at Tai Da Flags

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2013, 10:12am

A flag maker whose business has benefited from recent rallies in Hong Kong always reminds his young buyers of the history behind their purchases - especially when it comes to a certain British colonial banner.

"Customers come to buy flags for different reasons. I talk with them about the stories behind the flags," said Wong Ying-kui, 72, owner of Tai Da Flags Company in Yau Ma Tei, a retailer and wholesaler specialising in flags, souvenirs and trophies.

As Wong shows some flags to a visitor, his storyteller's enthusiasm for their history becomes obvious. First, he points to the Qing dynasty's ferocious dragon flag, with a yellow background, and then the five-coloured flag of Dr Sun Yat-sen's Republic of China.

But Wong paused before nodding at the British colonial flag of Hong Kong in his shop's front window - which, he said, has been selling well.

"Ever since the campaign against parallel trading at the Sheung Shui MTR station in September [when the colonial flag was waved], more and more young people have dropped by and asked how much that flag is," said Wong, pointing at the relatively large - 64cm by 96cm - emblem of colonial times.

"But I always tell them: this is part of our history, a history that all Chinese should be ashamed of, as we were once so weak and conquered by foreign countries."

In recent months, sales of smaller versions of the flag - which cost between HK$20 and HK$25 - have increased by between 10 and 20 per cent, says Wong. His shop no longer has a machine that can make the large version, which Hongkongers have seen being waved at rallies.

Some former Beijing officials have lamented the sight of colonial flags in street protests, most recently during Tuesday's mass demonstration. But many commentators say the flags are less about an independence movement - as some mainlanders fear - and more indicative of an anti-Beijing sentiment.

"Some people buy the flags for their personal collection, and some buy a bulk purchase of 10 at once. I don't know why, exactly, they buy [so many]," he said.

Wong has been selling flags for over 40 years, to tourists, companies and, recently, to increasing numbers of young people.