China should “revise its character simplification policy,” and consider reintroducing certain traditional characters, suggested Legislative Council President Jasper Tsang Yok-sing in his column in the Chinese newspaper AM730 on Thursday.

Simplified characters are a set of Chinese characters with reduced numbers of strokes, currently in widespread use in China. However, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao have always maintained their use of traditional characters.

Among his suggestions, he called for steps to “reduce multiple meanings in simplified characters and avoid having one simplified character represent many traditional ones,” and to “eliminate any simplified character which looks drastically different from its traditional counterpart.”

File photo: Apple Daily.

Computer technologies “have allowed simplified characters to lose most of their original functions,” he said. “There are fewer and fewer chances for people to take up a pen and write.”

The advantages of simplified characters have been weakened, and “the disadvantages will not be alleviated through developments in society and technology,” he added.

He said that, in the process of learning, simplified characters “do not have an absolute advantage” over their traditional counterparts. “Simplified characters have fewer strokes, but the characters look more similar, making mistaking one character for another more likely,” he said. Tsang also cited a study which said that reading in traditional characters is faster than in simplified characters because traditional characters are more easily identified.

It is easier for those who know traditional characters to recognise simplified characters than the other way around, he said.

Primary school students. File Photo: Apple Daily.

Previously, Tsang has said that people who regard one form of characters as superior to another are being biased. However, he also said that the rash proposal to teach simplified Chinese characters before a mastery of the traditional form has been achieved will create confusion for schoolchildren.


Chantal Yuen

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.