The Ministry of Education is seeking public opinion on a draft list of simplified Chinese characters, and says it will not permit the use of traditional characters in the near future. The list has been drawn up over the past eight years under the ministry's supervision, and was opened to public review from yesterday until the end of this month. The aim is to standardise and regulate the use of simplified characters, and adapt to changing demands in the information age. The list comes with a comparison of simplified and traditional characters, which are used in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and overseas Chinese communities. Li Yuming, director of the ministry's Language and Character Information Administration, said the list had input from 3,000 academics from across the world and had undergone more than 90 revisions. On a possible return to traditional characters on the mainland, Mr Li said that a consensus was reached that 'in principle, no traditional characters were to be included in the list, to maintain consistency of use in society'. Mr Li said the list provided a bottom line for the simplification process, which some academics say has rendered some characters undistinguishable from others. Xu Jiujiu , a researcher from the Institute of Linguistics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the release of the list marked an end to the debate on the return to traditional characters. 'It is good practice to make the list open for public review, but I am concerned to what extend this list will be implemented in reality,' he said. In March, Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate Pan Qinglin proposed at the National People's Congress and CPPCC meetings that traditional characters be 'comprehensively resumed in five decades'. The Communist Party simplified characters when it took power in a bid to improve literacy. Mr Pan said the simplification of characters in the 1950s was 'too rough to maintain artistic and scientific elements, while computers have made the input of traditional characters easier'. He also said the return to traditional characters would help in unification with Taiwan. Professor Xu said most mainlanders were not enthusiastic about a return to traditional characters. 'My suggestion is that mainlanders shouldn't interfere in the use of traditional characters in Hong Kong and Macau. And if anybody on the mainland wants to use traditional characters, they should not be cracked down on. A free environment is important,' he said.