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Language protests in China; Big demo in support of Cantonese

Demonstrations to protect Cantonese dialect over Mandarin spoken by vast majority of Chinese are growing in China with hundreds of people coming out in southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and calling on government not to stifle their language.

world Updated: Aug 02, 2010 09:12 IST

Demonstrations to protect Cantonese dialect over Mandarin spoken by vast majority of Chinese are growing in China with hundreds of people coming out in southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and calling on government not to stifle their language.

The demonstration, held on Sunday, was the second of its kind by the Guangzhou citizens, mostly young people, since last weekend after a local political advisory body proposed early last month that Guangzhou TV broadcast more of its news programmes in Mandarin or launch a new Mandarin channel, China's official newsagency Xinhua reported on Monday.

Citizens in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, were worried that their dialect would be abolished in the promotion of Mandarin, spoken by Han Chinese who constitute over 90 per cent majority of China.

About 70 million Han Chinese speak Cantonese, specially Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao which is different from Mandarin.

Sunday's rally took place in People's Park, just outside the municipal government's compound, and police officers were deployed to maintain order.

The rally lasted about some two and a half hours.

The protests, in China, was not only allowed but were covered by the official media.

Chinese insistence in the past for all Chinese to speak Mandarin ran into problems in the Xinjiang, the Muslim Uyghur majority province and Tibet, which have their local languages.

TV stations in China are required to broadcast in Mandarin.

However, since Guangdong is adjacent to Hong Kong and Macao where Cantonese is widely used, Guangzhou TV was approved by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television in the 1980s to use Cantonese in order to attract viewers from the two regions.

Similar protests were staged in Hong Kong also, the reports said.

China has eight major dialects, but the number may vary due to different classifications.

It is usually difficult for those speaking one language to understand another dialect.

The Guangzhou municipal government has said that local authorities would not abolish use of the Cantonese dialect.