Cafe menus cook up 'discrimination' row

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2012, 12:00am


Bosses at a new branch of the agnes b. Cafe LPG chain will change menus that use simplified Chinese characters after being accused of discriminating against Hongkongers.

The cafe apologised on its Facebook page yesterday after an online outcry over what internet forum users dubbed the 'invasion of simplified Chinese' at the new branch in Tseung Kwan O's PopCorn mall.

Internet users were angered to see that menus adopted the simplified characters normally used on the mainland, rather than the traditional Chinese used in Hong Kong, for items such as salad and chocolate. The row comes amid months of tension between Hongkongers and those from the mainland.

Cafe staff apologised on its Facebook page yesterday, and a company spokeswoman said management had decided to replace the wall menus at all branches, but said the company had been using simplified Chinese since at least 2008.

'The Times Square branch - one of the first shops we had - only offered English menus and we received complaints. So we have also included simplified characters at every branch since then. The Tseung Kwan O branch was not the only one,' the spokeswoman said.

'In light of the complaints, we will replace all our wall menus to include only English and traditional Chinese. Simplified Chinese will be listed alongside the two languages in the printed menus,' she said.

Traditional Chinese characters are understood by both mainlanders and Hongkongers, Dr Chin Wan-kan, assistant professor of Chinese language at Lingnan University, said. 'It is not right Hongkongers should have to accommodate mainlanders [by changing the characters],' he said.

Character simplification has been used for centuries, but the mainland started to promote simplified Chinese to improve literacy after the Communist Party came to power.

Sai Kung district councillor Gary Fan Kwok-wai says it is unfair to Hongkongers that more shops and restaurants are targeting mainland tourists. 'It's disrespectful and discriminatory,' he said.

One blogger wrote on HK Golden forum: '[The] mall is for mainlanders. The use of simplified Chinese is normal [there], Hong Kong's businessmen have no dignity.' Another wrote: 'Chinese people should use simplified Chinese'.

Chin said the complaints were the latest sign of tensions between Hongkongers and visitors from the mainland.

An influx of pregnant mainlanders seeking to give birth and claims that Dolce & Gabbana banned locals, but not those from the mainland, from taking photos of its Tsim Sha Tsui store caused protests.

The rows led a group of Hongkongers to produce adverts attacking the influx of 'locusts', while Peking University professor Kong Qingdong called Hongkongers 'dogs'.