CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 June 2018

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Cantonese culture in Hong Kong heading for extinction

HONG KONG (UCAN): “Politicisation is inevitable, because the teaching materials and textbooks come from China,” a political commentator in Hong Kong, Lam Kei wrote. 
 
“They are taking the opportunity to turn Putonghua teaching into brainwashing sessions,” Lam said.
 
Lam’s comments come amid growing concerns that the increasing use of Putonghua (Mandarin) in Hong Kong is posing a threat to the city’s indigenous culture.
 
The the government’s Census and Statistics Department, in a 2016 census, found that around 166,000 new Hong Kongers—those who migrated from across the border with China—have taken up residence in the city over the past seven years.
 
Fewer of them said they could speak Cantonese, one of the city’s official Chinese languages.
 
Cantonese was the “usual spoken language” for more than 91 per cent of the population in 2016, but was spoken by just under 70 per cent of migrants from China, the department said.
 
One resident, Chen Yang, told Radio Free Asia, “I have lived in Hong Kong for more than 20 years and my feeling is that the status of Cantonese is changing in favour of Putonghua.”
 
Chen noted, “When I had just moved to Hong Kong, Putonghua was looked down on as the language of a hick from the sticks, a closed society.”
 
The trend has raised fears among local commentators who say the city’s traditional freedoms and way of life are under threat amid growing political influence from Beijing.
 
Lam observed that the shift away from Cantonese in Hong Kong’s education system has been gradually accelerating ever since the 1997 handover to Chinese sovereignty.
 
“Hong Kong is discovering, just like Guangzhou and Shenzhen a few years ago, that it is the last bastion of Cantonese, and that (the language) is heading towards extinction,” Lam wrote.

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