Any plans to teach students simplified Chinese must be well researched and thought through, Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing wrote in Am730 on Monday. If rashly proposed, there would be a risk of confusion, Tsang said.

The Education Bureau was embroiled in controversy over a suggestion in a consultation document that primary school students should learn to read simplified Chinese characters. Some teachers and netizens voiced their concerns over the “mainlandisation” of education in Hong Kong, amid the bureau’s long-term plans to use Putonghua to teach Chinese language.

Primary school students. File

The consultation document reads: “After students have grasped traditional Chinese, they should also be equipped with the ability to recognise and read simplified Chinese, in order to expand students’ reading range and strengthen communication with mainland and foreign students.”

Tsang said that “Looking at it objectively, it did not have the intention of replacing traditional Chinese with simplified Chinese,” Tsang wrote. “It only said ‘recognise and read’, not ‘write’.”

However, he said that there are problems with implementation, including whether to teach both traditional and simplified Chinese at the same time, and which one to use for dictations and exams. Tsang said that the Education Bureau should first research how to implement this teaching method before making the proposition.

Jasper Tsang. File Photo: Now TV screen cap.

“If not thought out thoroughly, and rashly proposed, [this] would create confusion, as has been proven by what happened.”

The Education Bureau responded to the controversy on Saturday, saying that the bureau has no plans for primary or secondary school students to learn simplified Chinese. “[There is] no meaning or intention to replace traditional with simplified Chinese, to ‘integrate’ the languages, and to have traditional Chinese disappear.”

Activist student group Scholarism has planned a demonstration on Monday afternoon to protest against schools teaching simplified Chinese in Chinese language lessons.

Hermina Wong

Hermina is a Hong Kong writer and journalist. She graduated with a degree in politics from Cambridge, and is interested in international affairs, particularly those related to China, the EU and the Middle East. She also enjoys political satire.