Hong Kong government websites and social media pages have turned monochrome to mourn the death of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin.

Government websites in greyscale. Screenshots, via GovHK.

The home pages of websites for the Centre for Health Protection, the police, the Hong Kong Observatory and other government departments switched to black and white on Wednesday night after news that Jiang had died aged 96.

Meanwhile, flags across the city flew at half mast and China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong set up a memorial hall for mourners to pay their last respects.

Flags at government headquarters fly at half-mast in memory of ex-Chinese leader Jiang Zemin on December 1, 2022. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Visitors are required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test and wear an N95 or a mask of higher protection.

‘Outstanding leader’

Chief Executive John Lee, who removed his Facebook profile picture and changed his cover photo of the government headquarters into a greyscale version, praised Jiang as an “outstanding leader with high prestige.”

“He broke new grounds for the country’s comprehensive reform and opening up, implemented the basic policies of law-based governance of the country and upheld the principles of ‘peaceful reunification of China’ and ‘one country, two systems,'” Lee said, expressing his “deepest condolences.”

Chinese government websites, including those for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, state media outlets and overseas embassies, also went into black and white mode.

The websites for the Hong Kong International Airport, for booking a Covid-19 vaccine, and the Observatory websites were also displayed in black and white.

The Hong Kong International Airport website in monochrome. Photo: HKIA.

Jiang’s death came as rare protests erupted in China against the country’s strict Covid-19 policies that have seen long lockdowns and livelihoods disrupted for almost three years.

He rose to the head of the Chinese Communist Party in 1989 in the aftermath of the Tiananmen crackdown, steering China through a time of unparalleled prosperity as it emerged as a global powerhouse. However, he also cracked down on the Falun Gong spiritual movement, limited internet freedoms and escalated the one-child policy.

‘Extremely sad’

Top Hong Kong officials and lawmakers also expressed their condolences at Jiang’s passing on social media.

Lawmaker Regina Ip, who changed her Facebook profile picture to a black and white flower, said she was “extremely sad” to learn the news of his death. The former security chief noted that Jiang had made multiple trips to Hong Kong during his time as China’s leader, and she had overseen his security detail.

Jiang Zemin and ex-Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. Photo: GovHK.

“I also saw him in the mainland,” Ip said. “One of my memories was back in 2001, when he joined a meeting in Guangzhou and announced very happily that our country had joined the World Trade Organisation.”

“I was there at the time, and I had the rare opportunity to take a photo with him,” she said.

Chief Secretary Eric Chan, Secretary for Security Chris Tang, and Financial Secretary Paul Chan also mourned Jiang’s passing.

“The contributions of [Jiang] helped achieve the nation’s development and make Hong Kong what we are today,” Paul Chan wrote.

As well as darkening their home pages, government bureaus including the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau and the Labour and Welfare Bureau changed the icons in their Facebook profile photo to black and white.

Jiang visited Hong Kong four times during his time as leader, including to witness the 1997 Handover of the British colony to China.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.