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20 held from Cantonese rights protest in Guangzhou

August 5, 2010

Tibetan Review
August 4, 2010

Hundreds of people took part in protests in
Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, and
Hong Kong on Aug 1 to jointly defend their right
to speak and listen to their native Cantonese
language. Their anger was directed against the
imposition of Mandarin, China’s official
language. Police broke up the protest in
Guangzhou and arrested 20 people, including
several journalists from Hong Kong, for public
disorder, reported AsiaNews.it and Reuters Aug 2.

The South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) Aug 2
cited Guangzhou police as saying in a statement
posted on the department's website that the
protesters had held illegal gatherings and they
would "punish those who were unreasonable and created trouble".

The demonstration in Hong was relatively smaller,
with about 200 people marching to the city's
government headquarters to express their support for the Guangzhou protesters.

The week before, hundreds of people protested in
Guangzhou against a plan to switch major
television shows in the city from Cantonese to
Mandarin, also known as Putonghua, ahead of the Asian games in Nov’10.

"China claims to be multi-racial, multicultural,
so you have to respect the local lingual," Radio
Australia online Aug 3 quoted Emily Lau, Member
of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and Vice
Chairperson of the Democratic Party, as saying.
It cited her as saying too much emphasis was
being placed on the need to speak Putonghua, with
the result that some Cantonese speakers felt it
was affecting their job prospects in Guangdong.

The report likewise cited Chongyi, Associate
Professor from the China Research Centre at the
University of Technology Sydney, as saying often
Cantonese people feel marginalised by Mandarin speaking government officials.

Beijing has promoted Mandarin Chinese for decades
to unite a nation with thousands of dialects and
numerous minority languages. However, local
Guangzhou television stations were given the
go-ahead to start broadcasting in Cantonese in
the 1980s in a bid to lure viewers away from
cross-border shows, said Reuters Aug 2. The plans
to shift TV shows back out of Cantonese has
fuelled fears the government wants to phase it out in official settings.
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