English an option for executive authorities

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 1997, 12:00am

Will English remain an official language of Hong Kong? Article Nine of the Basic Law says English, in addition to Chinese, may be used as the official language by the executive authorities, legislature, and judiciary of the future special administrative region.

It does not say if Chinese refers to Mandarin or Cantonese.

What effect will this have on civil servants who have been using English all these years? They will have to gain a pass in Chinese and English in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination to qualify for entry to the civil service.

Directorate-level officers will have to learn to speak Mandarin.

Will there be Mandarin broadcast on MTR or KCR trains? At present, the KCRC broadcasts in Mandarin at Lowu and Hunghom stations. The KCRC says it will consider extending the service to the other 11 stations if passengers want it. The MTRC says it has no immediate plans to add Mandarin to the existing English and Cantonese broadcast.

Will Pearl and World TV channels be changed to Mandarin programming? Probably not, although TVB and ATV are lobbying for the condition in their licences to be relaxed to accommodate more non-English programmes.

At present both stations are allowed to broadcast non-English programmes for up to 20 per cent of programming time. The two stations use the time slots mostly to show films in Mandarin.

But the Government plans to maintain both television stations' obligation to carry English channels.

What about radio programming? RTHK has launched a Mandarin channel. Commercial Radio and Metro say they have no immediate plans to follow suit.

Will pupils have to learn simplified characters in schools? Simplified characters are commonly used on the mainland but they have so far been excluded from formal curriculum in Hong Kong.

The Education Department is distributing a learning kit to schools to teach pupils the most commonly used 2,000 simplified Chinese characters. The material is taken from the China State Language Commission.

Simplified Chinese characters are not encouraged in public examinations. Would that be changed after June 30? This is the good news for those eager to save writing time by using simplified characters.

The Hong Kong Examinations Authority has announced that candidates will be allowed to use simplified characters in public exams. But candidates will be warned that they should only use simplified characters that have been approved by Beijing.