Hong Kong handover: Secrets of the flag man

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The Independent Online
The man behind the new motif for Hong Kong is not waving but flagging.

Professor Xiao Hong had to be admitted to hospital for nine days suffering from exhaustion after attending too many official handover functions, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The agency says he was the man who won first prize in the competition to design Hong Kong's post-colonial flag, an achievement which put him on the guest-list of many functions.

But as he regains his stamina, a serious question arises; has the good professor been partying under false pretences?

Professor Xiao may be harbouring a guilty secret. Ten years ago, China launched a nationwide competition to design a flag for Hong Kong after the Union Flag came down on 30 June 1997, and received more than 7,000 entries. Six designs were shortlisted and in October 1989 they were all rejected.

Then in December 1989, a panel of Chinese officials and Hong Kong artists announced that they had chosen the bauhinia blossom - the official flower of Hong Kong - to represent the reintegrated region.

The mainland co-convenor of the panel, Qian Weichang, said: "We've been scratching our heads for something that best represents Hong Kong. Some said junk, dragon and even money. We all agreed on the bauhinia," he said. There was no mention of Professor Xiao.

So the mystery remains how the professor has managed to maintain his VIP status as prize flag-designer. His may indeed have been one of the six flag designs short-listed, but his hosts seem blissfully unaware that all these winners were rejected.