[lg policy] China: TV language request sparks protests

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 11 14:58:35 UTC 2010

TV language request sparks protests

"We made the proposal because one-third of Guangzhou's population came
from elsewhere and their language preference should be also considered
at the municipal TV station," said Han Zhipeng, a member of the
committee. - CRI Language policy (and language resentment) has been
the dog that hasn't barked in China. Now it has barked meekly—twice.
Both protests have been quite small. But this situation should be an
interesting one to keep an eye on. - The Economist

Recent protests over the status of Cantonese have attracted the
attention of the world's media. The protests broke out after a request
from the People’s Political Consultative Conference in Guangzhou for
local television stations to begin broadcasting part of their output
in Mandarin. Part of the reasoning was to cater for migrant workers
for other areas of China, who might not speak Cantonese. The catalyst,
though, was the 2010 Asian Games, which will be held in Guanzhou in
November and are expected to bring an influx of visitors from other
parts of China and abroad.  Young Cantonese speakers reacted angrily,
using the internet to organise protests in both Hong Kong and
Guangzhou. The response of the authorities was to deny that Cantonese
would be ”abolished”, and criticising ”rumours” spread by individuals.

One suspect had been detained by police, reported People's Daily,
after he allegedly spread rumours that 20,000 people were to attend a
protest. In the end only 1,000 turned up, and were dispersed by police
after three hours. This flashpoint is part of an ongoing process that
is occurring all over the world. Cantones has been the language of
Chinese communities in many countries, mainly because Guangdong
Province has been a trading region for much of its history and has
consequently sent more emigrants abroad than other areas of China.The
Economist took a controversial line, arguing that Cantonese and
Mandarin were different languages and not dialects of the same tongue,
but acknowledging that a common language is central to the identity of
many Han Chinese. The differences were more akin to ”English vs.
Frisian vs. German” than ”British vs. American vs. Irish English”,
according to the newspaper's 'Johnson' blog, which concentrates on the
effect of language use on ”politics, society and culture around the

Malaysian website Sinchew linked Mandarin's ascent to Singapore's
'speak Mandarin' campaign, arguing that the campaigns greatest effects
were felt outside the tiny city-state, among Malaysians of Chinese

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