Fewer press releases issued in English

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 October, 2010, 12:00am

The amount of information released in English by the government news agency has shrunk, with many press releases issued only in Chinese, according to the Hong Kong Journalists Association.

A study by the association's quarterly journal, The Journalist, found Chinese-only press releases issued by the Information Services Department outnumbered English-only releases by more than five to one.

Ironically, the department issued a Chinese-only statement on July 18 on a Department of Statistics questionnaire on care for racial minorities under the title: 'No one should be left out: the population survey has the racial minorities at heart'.

Of the roughly 3,000 press releases issued in July this year, 137 were in Chinese only, and 25 in English only.

The problem was not just the number of monolingual releases, but their news value, the association said. 'The fact Chinese and English are the city's official languages and anything spoken in the [Legislative] council will become part of our history does not seem to bother the government when providing everything only in Chinese,' the journal says.

The association divided the Chinese-only press releases into three types. The largest category, numbering 65, covered speeches by officials and members of the Legislative Council.

The second-largest, 29, covered officials speaking on various occasions. The third category, 19, was made up of transcripts of officials speaking at media 'stand-ups'. The association said it was disturbing that officials were increasingly resorting to informal sessions and 'stand-ups' instead of formal press conferences to announce government policies and positions.

'Are we to be an international city in China, or merely another Chinese city?' the association said. 'Hong Kong should be understood by the world. To emphasise English is not only to help non-Chinese-speaking journalists; the more important thing is to ensure that Hong Kong remains a world city.'

A government spokesman said it tried as far as possible to issue press releases in English and Chinese.

'In general, government officials give opening remarks in both languages ... There is no question of refusing to answer questions in English. We fully appreciate the importance of both English and Chinese in an international city like Hong Kong.'