Cantonese Dialect in Danger

Cantonese Dialect in Danger

    Hundreds of people staged a peaceful but loud protest in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province Sunday over fears that Cantonese dialect is being threatened.

    At 5 pm Sunday, at least 1,000 people - mainly in their 20s and 40s - gathered outside the Jiangnanxi subway station exit to criticize a proposal to increase programs in Putonghua on Guangzhou Television's news and satellite channels, which are mainly in Cantonese.

    The local committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) suggested the idea earlier this month.

    The committee said Putonghua broadcasts would accommodate athletes and tourists who go to Guangzhou from other places for the Asian Games in November.

    The idea prompted fears that the local government will completely abandon Cantonese in favor of Putonghua in the near future.

    Su Zhijia, a deputy Party secretary of Guangzhou, refuted the rumor.

    "The city government has never had such a plan to abandon or weaken Cantonese," he said.

    However, some local residents remain worried about the loss of their dialect.

    Young people in T-shirts saying, "I love Guangzhou" written in Cantonese were seen everywhere in the protest area Sunday.

    They shouted "Protect Cantonese, Love Guangzhou" while others sang popular Cantonese songs.

    "Till now, there is no report of casualties or any physical conflict. Also, none of the participants have been brought back to our police station," a woman who answered the phone at Guangzhou Public Security Bureau, told the Global Times late Sunday.

    Occasionally, some youngsters took turns giving passionate speeches in Cantonese to cheering crowds.

    "I stand for multiculturalism, and I strongly oppose the government's plan to promote Putonghua with administrative means," an editor at a local publishing house, surnamed Yan, told the Global Times.

    As a dialect, Cantonese has its own unique charms and Guangzhou should keep its distinctive style and character, Yan continued.

    Wu Lei, a protester, told the Global Times that there were hundreds of police officers on site and they stood hand-in-hand to keep the massive gathering in check.

    They persuaded people to leave.

    "The policemen were quite sober-minded. There was no bodily contact with the crowd," Wu said.

    Local traffic came to a halt and Jiangnanxi Road was blocked from 5 pm to 7 pm.

    Police scattered the crowd at about 7:30 pm and the street returned to normal after 8 pm, according to Wu.

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