Summary: Hong Kong Education Secretary Kevin Yeung on 8 October suggested that it may be a good idea for Hongkongers to start using more Putonghua in their daily lives, as he questioned whether Cantonese will be suitable as a teaching language in the city in the long-run. In an RTHK programme, Yeung said no one in the world who learns Chinese does so in Cantonese except for the 7 million people in HK, and the trend clearly favors Putonghua. He also claimed that Cantonese is not the mother tongue of all Hongkongers, at least not ethnic minorities and Chiu Chow people. In reality, Cantonese is still spoken by 0.1 billion people in the world and it is a 3000-year-old language much more elegant than Putonghua, a newspeak created by the Chinese Communist Party to brainwash people. Meanwhile, HK Cantonese is still the mother tongue of 90% of the HK population and it has been the facto official oral language of HK for 170 years. Adopting Putonghua as the medium of instruction in place of HK Cantonese will cost Hongkongers their identity, culture, jobs, and dignity. In fact, the Education Bureau has set a long-term vision that Putonghua be used as the medium of instruction for teaching the Chinese Language Subject in all primary and secondary schools, which is against Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 2 of the 1992 UN Declaration on the Rights of … Linguistic Minorities.
Cantonese is still spoken by 0.1 billion people in the world
Cantonese is still spoken by 0. 1 billion people in the world (cf. Zoe Lam 2015), not just the 7 million people of HK, just that HK Cantonese uniquely and organically combines Pak Yuet (an anceint Southern China indigenous language), classical Chinese, modern Chinese, and Western loan words. It is still the mother tongue of 90 % of the HK population despite China’s flooding Hong Kong with 150 immigrants every day. Iceland has a population of only 3 hundred thousand, but the Icelandic people do not have to adopt English as their teaching language in order to learn English, which is almost the global lingua franca now.
HK Cantonese as a de facto official oral language in HK
More importantly, for 170 years, HK Cantonese has been one of the two de facto official oral languages in HK (the other being English) in all official situations there, e.g., courts, the Legislative and Executive Councils, schools, radio and television programs, hospitals, and all government departments. (The HK Basic Law states that the official languages of HK are English and Chinese, but it is specified whether “Chinese” means Cantonese or Putonghua.)
No HK Cantonese, No Hong Kong!
Language not only expresses but also constructs identity (Bucholtz and Hall, 2005:35; David Evans, 2014). Adopting Putonghua as the medium of instruction in place of HK Cantonese will cost Hongkongers their identity, culture, jobs, and dignity. Without HK Cantonese, there would not have been kungfu master Bruce Lee (1940-1973), Cantonese opera composer Dickson Tong (1917-1959), lyricist James Wong (1941-2004), comedian Stephen Chow (1962- ), pop song composer and singer Sam Hui (1948- ), director Wong Kar-wai (1958- ), and international actor Chow Yun Fat (1955-).
Indeed, the HK Cantonese expert Professor Robert Bauer (2002) predicts if the trend of teaching the Chinese subject in Putonghua at HK schools continues, the tradition of HK students reading written Chinese in HK Cantonese will vanish within a couple of decades and HK Cantonese will then become a sub-class and sub-culture language. With the continuous influx of Putonghua-speaking immigrants from Communist China, HK Cantonese may even become extinct.
Violation of Universal Human Rights
According to the 2017 report by Hong Kong’s Audit Commission on the Education Bureau’s HK$8 billion Language Fund, the bureau spent HK$225 million in 2007 to fund 160 schools to participate in a trial scheme using Putonghua to teach Chinese. In fact, the Education Bureau has set a long-term vision that Putonghua be used as the medium of instruction for teaching the Chinese Language Subject in all primary and secondary schools.
The undemocratic State-controlled HKSAR Government’s attempt to replace HK Cantonese with Putonghua as the medium of instruction is against Article 2 of the 1992 UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities, which states that “Persons belonging to ……. linguistic minorities ……have the right to …… use their own language, in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination”; and Article 26 of The 1996 Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights adopted at the conclusion of the World Conference on Linguistic Rights, which states that “All language communities are entitled to an education which will enable their members to acquire a full command of their own language”. In fact, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right to freedom of opinion and expression. And UN Resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”.
Putonghua as a Newspeak
According to Wan Chin (2008), Putonghua is in reality an artificial language “manufactured” by the CCP to limit the Chinese’s freedom of thought, personal identity, self-expression, and free will, that could ideologically threaten the rule of the CCP. As it is much more crude and much less elegant than Cantonese, it is much easier for Cantonese speakers to learn Putonghua than the other way round. It is absolutely unnecessary for Hong Kong students to sacrifice HK Cantonese in order to learn Putonghua, just as it is absolutely unnecessary for Finnish students to sacrifice Finnish in order to learn English.
Photo credit: RTHK