Award-winning Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong Chau-sang has stirred up passions in cyberspace with his lament at what he sees as the "death" of China’s ancient culture in the mainland due to its use of simplified Chinese characters.
Wong’s message has drawn both fierce criticism and passionate support from mainland and Hong Kong users of the Sina Weibo micro-blogging site.
“Over half of the population in China does not read traditional Chinese characters. Sigh. The Huaxia civilisation is dead,” Wong said in his message posted early this week. (Huaxia refers to Chinese civilisation in historical literature.)
Some bloggers who agreed with Wong pointed out that traditional characters were important as they were used to write most of China's ancient cultural classics.
But critics of Wong said the Hong Kong star had failed to acknowledge the merits of the mainland’s simplified characters.
“One of its big advantages is that it makes it easier to reduce illiteracy, and therefore promote cultural exchange,” said one user identified as Happy Spear.
The issue of simplified Chinese characters often touches the nerves of the people in Hong Kong, which along with Taiwan, uses the traditional characters as their standard written form of Chinese.
Last April, a Hong Kong café chain was forced to change its menus that used simplified Chinese characters only after it was accused of discriminating against Hongkongers by internet users.
Wong, often an outspoken critic of the mainland in his blog and other media, was also accused by some bloggers of simply using the issue of simplified characters to promulgate his anti-mainland sentiments.
“You habitually look down upon mainlanders to establish your own sense of superiority! You oppose everything [that is] mainland Chinese. You prefer to be a British dog rather than a Chinese man,” one user said in a reply to Wong.
“[You have] no dignity and no brain!” a user identified as Moonshadow Sunlight wrote.
Wong, 50, has won the Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor Award twice, in 1994 for his serial killer role in The Untold Story and in 1999 for his appearance in Beast Cops.