Cantonese set to carry on as officials quash rumors

By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-07-30 06:52
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GUANGZHOU - A senior city official in the southern city of Guangzhou has reaffirmed that no action will be taken to scrap Cantonese in favor of Mandarin, and warned those who spread rumors or try to organize illegal rallies will be punished according to the law.

Local residents, visitors and tourists alike are fully able to speak both Cantonese and Mandarin in Guangzhou, Ouyang Yongsheng, deputy director of the general office of the Guangzhou city government, said at a press conference on Thursday.

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The city government, he said, would never seek to marginalize a dialect that has been spoken by local residents for thousands of years.

"Instead, the city government will continue to spare no effort to promote Yueju, Cantonese opera, and Cantonese pop music in the coming years," he said.

The opera, which is more than 160 years old, has arias that are sung in the distinctive Cantonese dialect and the accompanying music is native to the area.

Ouyang said the rumor (of eliminating Cantonese to promote Mandarin) was based on falsehoods and that those found responsible for spreading the rumor will be duly punished.

Sources from within the Guangzhou police said a suspect, surnamed Yu, who reportedly spread the rumor online to call people to attend a rally in support of Cantonese last Sunday, had been placed under a five-day detention.

Yu, a native of Central China's Hubei province, claimed online that more than 20,000 residents would attend the rally, which had received local police approval, according to the police.

Ouyang said that there were actually only hundreds of people gathered in the Jiangnanxi metro station in the city's Haizhu district from 4 pm to 7 pm on Sunday to voice their support for Cantonese.

Police later dispersed the gathering for reasons of security.

Police officials said they had never received any application for the rally in support of Cantonese.

Ouyang is the second senior official from the city government to voice his support for Cantonese.

Early this month, Su Zhijia, deputy Party secretary of Guangzhou, told the media that the city government never had any plans to abandon or dilute Cantonese.

Su's remarks follow a proposal put forward earlier his month by members of the Guangzhou Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) asking Guangzhou TV to air programs currently broadcast in Cantonese in Mandarin on the station's two main channels.

Ouyang said the proposal, which had been misunderstood, was just a suggestion, not an administrative order.

Guangzhou TV had promised not to give up its Cantonese channels and programs, which are now pulling in higher audience ratings in response to the proposal, he said.

A senior executive from Guangzhou TV said the station would continue to do what they can to broadcast programs in both Cantonese and Mandarin in the coming months.

Wu Shenda, a Guangzhou white-collar worker, said many local residents have become used to watching Cantonese TV channels and programs.

"The government should try to protect the city's unique culture and language, while taking efforts to promote Mandarin, as the two can coexist in the city," Wu said.

According to a poll on the official website of the CPPCC's Guangzhou committee, 80 percent of the 30,000 respondents are against withdrawing Cantonese from local TV channels.