Mandarin, the language of independence

The furore over Benny Tai Yiu-ting’s independence remarks in Taipei should at least prove to young separatists bent on secession for Hong Kong that Mandarin is highly useful for the purpose. If nothing else, they need the language to communicate with their comrades and plot revolution in Taiwan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 2:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 2:01am

Out of the latest sorry furore over University of Hong Kong law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, there is perhaps at least one saving grace. 

The incident in Taipei should at least prove to young separatists bent on secession for Hong Kong that Mandarin is highly useful for the purpose. If nothing else, you need the language to communicate with your comrades and plot revolution in Taiwan. That should help promote Mandarin among young local rebels by vastly increasing its appeal.

Government ‘shocked’ by Benny Tai’s independence comments in Taiwan

Let’s face it: telling young people they need Mandarin to make themselves employable just doesn’t cut it. Maybe anti-communism is just what it takes to get them to learn the national language. 

A bit of background: Baptist University student Andrew Chan Lok-hang and former student union president Lau Tsz-Kei have been disciplined by the school’s administration for leading a rowdy and obscenity-laced protest at the university’s language centre in January.

The students were demanding that university management scrap a mandatory Mandarin requirement. But it turned out Lau actually spoke excellent Mandarin, good enough to give an anti-China speech at a forum organised by a pro-independence Taiwanese group with close ties to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. 

The Taipei gathering in question was the one in which Tai and several other current and former student union presidents from Hong Kong universities took part last week. Disqualified localist lawmaker Yau Wai-ching was also there.

Tai has taken all the heat following criticisms from the Hong Kong government, dozens of pro-establishment lawmakers and practically all the state-owned news media outlets, including Xinhua. He has been accused of promoting independence for Hong Kong at the forum, a charge that he has denied. 

Thanks to Tai, few people paid attention to the other localist luminaries such as former Chinese University student union president Ernie Chow Shue-fung, whose deranged tirade – in Cantonese – against several mainland students last September, available for viewing on YouTube, achieved citywide infamy. 

Contrite but undeterred, suspended students look back on Mandarin saga

But what was most impressive was that one after another, the localist student leaders took the stage and spoke in Mandarin to deliver their pro-independence messages.

In a previous RTHK debate with pro-Beijing lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, Lau of Baptist University declared “Mandarin is completely useless” outside Hong Kong and the mainland because “it is not an international language”. 

Well, he has proved himself wrong, eloquently.