• Tue
  • Sep 16, 2014
  • Updated: 10:20am
NewsHong Kong

Hong Kong actor's criticism of simplified Chinese character use stirs up passions online

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 July, 2013, 4:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 10:52am

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
Anthony Wong Chau-sang

“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.



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This article is now closed to comments

With all due respect... What is communist version of Chinese character. If my first sentence made you suffer a bad "communism fever", my apologies.
@zack.chen.3726: Hello, to make a long story short, "communist" simplification was created by the communist government post civil war, when china was 100% under the rule of Mao and his fellows, and communism was the end all way of thinking. The communists' desire was to destroy & uproot ancient chinese culture in order to make the population subject to their new policies. And one of the best ways to do that was by replacing traditional writing, since that was independent of CCP government control. By creating a new system of characters defined only by the CCP, they now maintain control of people's words & thoughts. It had less to do with actually helping people than it did to strengthen the CCP's grip on population control. On the other hand, a truly beneficial form of simplification which was discussed by the KMT, would have been something similar to Japan's simplification post WW2, where they simplified certain forms, and not others. And this was done independently (since they were under the watch of the US), thus making it truly for the good of the people, and not for the benefit of government control.
@mbop: Thank you!
@baishui: You post what you want, i'll post what I want.
Don't worry about the criticism, Wong! Those mainlanders love putting everything down to 'anti-mainland' sentiments and 'foreigners' sense of superiority! How can you argue with those mainland Chinese when you just want to help preserve the beautiful 'traditional' Chinese characters and hope that more Chinese people will know them well and understand their poetic, literary, cultural and historic background?! And they accuse you of being anti-Chinese? I rest my case!
Sheer nonsense. I pitty those who try to politicise every single issue available in order to drive a wedge between HK and the mainland. I read and write both traditional and simplified characters and find no problem whatsoever in having both systems side by side. Who cares about what this so-called actor - whose father happens to be an English sailor - says about anything? By the way, I doubt he reads much Chinese and understands Chinese culture anyway.
Anthony Wong is truly British. More accurately, half Brit and half Hongkie
Simplified chars were created by 1 political party, literally on a quick and dirty political campaign drive. It is not thought-out and not systematic like traditional characters. I will go buy an Anthony Wong movie now.
Anthony Wong Chau-sang is correct. The Huaxia civilisation is dead. Soon, the same proportion of the Chinese population will read it as the proportion of people of European descent who read ancient Greek. Next to nil. That's a loss.
On the other hand, those in favor of the simplified characters are also correct. Mass literacy is necessary and schools must have time to teach more than the language.
If anything, the simplified characters aren't simplified, enough, in comparison with the sound based alphabets that relatively atonal Semitic and Indo-European languages have been able to use.
Traditional Chinese are an art form, it is regrettable indeed.




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