The highway department will reimburse the HK$147,670 it charged a community group as an ‘inspection fee’ on the 1,214 national flags it hung from lampposts in the New Territories to celebrate the national holiday last year.
News of an impending refund came before chief executive John Lee Ka-chiu last night said he had ordered administrative and inspection fee waivers for nationals and SARs clinging to lampposts.
In a Facebook post, he said he would launch a campaign to teach people the correct way to hang national and SAR flags. He also said he had asked the authorities to write new rules to prevent such incidents from happening again.
The department had charged HK$6 per flag per day for the 1,214 flags erected for 20 days along Fam Kam and Kam Tin roads from September 20 to October 9, with the total charge of HK$145,680 supplemented by record of HK$1,990.
The news came to light when pro-Beijing columnist Chris Wat Wing-yin wrote about it on Tuesday, decrying the “ridiculous” move to charge people for “patriotic behavior”.
The following day, Michael Lee Chun-keung, a member of the Liberal Party’s Legislative Council, posted a letter on Facebook that he and his counterpart from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Rock Chen Chung-nin, had sent to Highways Manager Jimmy Chan Pai-ming. .
“In fact, hanging national flags on the streets is a great way to show love for the nation and for Hong Kong,” they wrote.
“These functions were supposed to be performed by the SAR government. Now that citizens are helping, they should not be charged.”
“During the Black Violence in 2019, political parties and groups hung flags and put up posters in the streets, how did the department handle them?” they asked.
A department spokesperson told The Standard that the applicant was the first community group to apply in August to hang up the flags and that a refund is in process upon receipt of the letter.