GUANGZHOU - A senior official from the Guangdong provincial capital has denied rumors that the city will scrap Cantonese to promote Mandarin in the near future.
"Promoting Mandarin does not mean Guangzhou has to eliminate its dialect," Su Zhijia, deputy Party secretary of Guangzhou, said on Monday.
"The city government has never had such a plan to abandon or weaken Cantonese," he said.
Su's remarks follow a proposal put forward earlier this month by members of the Guangzhou Committee of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) asking local broadcaster Guangzhou Television to air programs in Mandarin on its news channel and channel one.
Currently, Guangzhou TV's Cantonese channels have higher audience ratings than those it broadcasts in Mandarin.
The proposal immediately drew strong opposition from local residents, who worry the dialect will be abandoned.
According to a poll on the official website of the CPPCC's Guangzhou Committee, 80 percent of the 30,000 respondents were opposed to withdrawing Cantonese from local TV channels.
"Mandarin and Cantonese can coexist in the southern metropolis, which is known for its drive to open up and the toleration of local residents," Su said.
"The strong objection to abrogating Cantonese reflects local residents' deep love for the city and the Lingnan, or South China, culture."
Cantonese is integral to the ancient Lingnan culture, as well as to its opera, music and cuisine, Su added.
He, nevertheless, urged locals to further improve their Mandarin, which is quite different from Cantonese in terms of pronunciation, and to use the official Chinese spoken language on formal occasions and in public places.
Su, a Guangzhou native, said he naturally loves Cantonese, though he also started to learn Mandarin as a child.
According to sources with Guangzhou TV, the government has never ordered the station to broadcast programs in Mandarin.
A senior executive at Guangzhou TV told China Daily the station will do everything it can to continue to broadcast programs in Cantonese and Mandarin in the coming months.
Wu Qiongxiu, a resident in Guangzhou, said she is opposed to abandoning Cantonese.
"Those who cannot follow Cantonese TV channels can actually choose to watch Mandarin ones, as the city and Guangdong province now have enough Mandarin channels," she said.
"As a language, Cantonese has its own unique charms and Guangzhou should keep its distinctive style and character," added Wu.
In addition to Guangdong province, Cantonese is also spoken in Hong Kong and Macao, parts of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region and Hainan province.
Many overseas Chinese also speak Cantonese.
(China Daily 07/21/2010 page5)