5th February, 2014
HK ETV Programme Demonise Cantonese
The Education Bureau called Cantonese, a language that 97% of the Hong Kongers speak, a “non official dialect” on its website and stirred a massive public outcry. It very quickly issued a statement and “apologizes for the misunderstanding caused by its carelessness”. However, it is found out that since 2007 the Education Bureau had been producing series of Mandarin* ETV (education TV) programmes that are required to be shown in local schools to “praise Mandarin and belittle Cantonese”, the programmes also distort the facts of Cantonese’s long history, origins from ancient poems and poetic tones, in order to create the illusion that “Mandarin is the only standard Chinese language”.
ETV programmes should compare the differences between Cantonese and Mandarin from a fair and neutral prospective. However, one of the programmes, entitled “Horrifying Day (驚心動魄)”, demonises Cantonese and uses a evil demon to represent Cantonese. Throughout the programme, only the demon speaks Cantonese and the rest of the characters all speak Mandarin.
The programme is about a couple who are professors (surname Bai – in Mandarin) and live overseas decided to leave their nine year-old daughter (Bai Yu) at home as they have to go for a trip. A triad group found out about a valuable vase in Bai’s house and planned to burgle the house.
When the parents are away, the daughter submerged herself in a computer game in which she met the main character of the game, “Mandarin Heroine” In the game, Bai Yu learnt Mandarin and helped “Mandarin Heroine” to bet the evil demon who intend to conquer the world with Cantonese. “Mandarin Heroine” on the other hand helped Bai Yu to bet the triads and safeguarded the valuable vase her father intended to give to his “motherland (China)” as a gift.
The most worrying thing about this programme is it demonises Cantonese whilst the heroine only speaks Mandarin, and uses the “evil demon” character to tell a lie that “demon will use Cantonese to conquer the world” – a very negative way to portrait Cantonese.
The Education Bureau has already distributed these programmes that belittle Cantonese, the mother tongue of the majority of Hong Kongers, in the form of DVD to all primary schools in Hong Kong.
Full video available here (no English subtitle, but the evil vs hero theme is loud and clear):
* Mandarin is commonly understood in the English speaking and pan-Western world as one of the Chinese languages. The word Mandarin (in English) was originally used to describe the language used by Qing people (the last dynasty), which is a language heavily influenced by Manchus. In areas outside of the capital (Peking), particularly in the South, Cantonese is the predominant mother tongue (this is the result of original Han people are forced to move to the South because of the Manchus and Mongolians invasions over the years).
According to many scholars and studies, Cantonese resemble the language that was spoken in Han Dynasty and Tang Dynasty more, compare to Mandarin, for example, ancient poems, as studies reveal, rhyme better in Cantonese. It was also found recently that one of Li Bai’s most famous poems, Quiet Night Thoughts, was “revised” by the Chinese – Japanese have been studying the original version as opposed to the “revised” version.
The term “Putonghua” means “Common Language” did not come by until much later – around late Qing dynasty, some think that it is a tool for governing a nation with different race and ethnicity.