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Reflections: sense and simplicity

Wee Kek Koon


The Chinese University of Hong Kong issued an apology last month following complaints by local candidates over an entry test for a PhD course that used simplified Chinese script. There has been a litany of grievances in the city about creeping "mainlandisation", and the appearance of simplified script in shops and restaurants is seen as one symptom of this insidious encroachment.

It's obvious that the issue isn't one of language, heritage or aesthetics, per se. Many Chinese characters used in Japanese are also simplified, but no one in Hong Kong complains about the appearance of these in local stores, adverts, etc. It's only when it's used in relation to the mainland that simplified script becomes objectionable. In fairness to Beijing, it has never pressed for the adoption of the simplified script or even Putonghua in Hong Kong. Its approach has been hands off com-pared with the British, who imposed a totally foreign language on things that mattered in their colony.

Non-Han Chinese had ruled part or all of China but it was only during the last dynasty, the Qing (1644-1911), that the foreign Manchu rulers forced their Han-Chinese subjects to adopt aspects of their culture - not the Manchu language but the shaved pates and queues for men. Those who refused had their hair forcibly restyled or their heads forcibly removed.



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Reflections: sense and simplicity

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