Monday, 2 August 2010

Fighting for Cantonese

Yesterday hundreds of people in Guangzhou and Hong Kong staged rallies protesting the Chinese government's bid to push for greater use of Putonghua instead of Cantonese.

In Guangzhou, protesters clashed with police, with at least eight people arrested, seven of whom were either journalists or supporters of Cantonese.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, more than 100 people marched from Wan Chai to the Central Government offices in Central in support of Cantonese.

Last month a political advisory body in Guangzhou proposed that TV stations broadcast prime-time shows in Putonghua instead of Cantonese ahead of the Asian Games in the southern Chinese city in November.

Officials and organisers anticipate a huge influx of Mandarin-speaking people into Guangzhou for the sporting event, but this also struck fear in Cantonese-speakers that their native tongue would disappear in the process.

The protest in Guangzhou yesterday was the second in as many weeks. The police tried to stop the rally, deeming it illegal, but demonstrators refused to leave, so the police carried many away by their hands and legs.

However, in Hong Kong the protest was subdued, with hundreds of people wearing white shirts demanding the preservation of Cantonese.

Kevin Kong, a 29-year-old university student studying in Canada, traveled from Guangzhou to Hong Kong to support the protest.

"We have the right to show our personal opinions," he said, saying Cantonese and Putonghua should coexist and one dialect should not be suppressed in favour of another.

"It may not be a major problem for this generation, but what about the next?"

Legislator "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung was also at the rally, saying people should be free to use whatever language they want.

"The people who speak Cantonese outnumber the population of France," he said. "How can you deny such a vast language to people?"

Meanwhile, government officials in Guangzhou were trying to play down the rumours to get rid of Cantonese.

"The citizens and concerned people can be reassured that Guangzhou will not go for the so-called cause of 'abolishing Cantonese to promote Mandarin,'" said Ouyang Yongsheng, a spokesman for the city.

Su Zhijia, a deputy party secretary of Guangzhou said, "The city government has never had such a plan to abandon or weaken Cantonese."

Sounds like the government is still blundering its way through social policy and has had to back down on this latest initiative. There is obviously little understanding of the importance of Cantonese, not only throughout the province, but especially in the Pearl River Delta region, where everyone in southern Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau use Cantonese on a daily basis.

Using the excuse of the upcoming Asian Games as a way to make people speak more Putonghua is ridiculous. Most people in Guangdong already speak it and Cantonese. And the Asian Games is only for 16 days.

Anyway, as long as people continue speaking it, Cantonese will not be a dying language.

1 comment:

  1. let the common people speak their own tongue. let nature takes its course.