Guangzhou blames people with ulterior motives for pro-Cantonese campaign

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 July, 2010, 12:00am

The Guangzhou government is trying to cool down the heated debate over the use of Cantonese, while a campaign to support the local dialect, first launched on the mainland, shifts to Hong Kong.

Ouyang Yongsheng , a spokesman for the Guangzhou city government, said yesterday it had no plan to marginalise the use of Cantonese or replace it with Putonghua.

He said the recent campaign in support of the provincial dialect had been instigated by people with ulterior motives.

He also confirmed for the first time that police had detained a suspect for spreading false information online in a call for people to gather for a 'support Cantonese' rally in Guangzhou last Sunday.

The suspect - a native of Hubei who was in Guangzhou on business earlier this month - said online that police had approved an application to hold the rally, and that 20,000 people would gather to voice their support of Cantonese.

Ouyang said the claims were false. He said several hundred people had gathered outside the Guangzhou metro's Jiangnanxi station at around 4pm on Sunday. For public security reasons, Guangzhou police broke up the event by 7pm.

But the rally inspired some Hong Kong activists, who are applying to local police to launch a similar rally on Sunday afternoon in Wan Chai.

They are also appealing to Guangzhou residents to rally in a park in their city at the same time to show their support for Cantonese. But the head of Guangzhou Public Security Bureau's propaganda division said yesterday it had not received any application to hold this Sunday's rally.

Ouyang and senior officials from the city's propaganda department and the local Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference said repeatedly that the public had misunderstood and overreacted to the proposal that triggered the pro-Cantonese campaign.

The proposal, by the city's CPPCC, suggested switching programming on two main channels of Guangzhou TV from Cantonese to Putonghua, which it said could make the city friendlier to visitors from other provinces during the Asian Games in November.

Ouyang said the proposal was a simple suggestion, not an administrative order, and had not been considered by the city's top leaders.

He would not say if Guangzhou TV would adopt the proposal but said the station would follow its current programming schedule while it pondered its decision.