Broadcaster TVB and legislative councillor Claudia Mo have been locked in a bitter exchange over the use of simplified Chinese subtitles for a Mandarin news programme on TV channel J5.

“Your letter on February 29 is full of nonsense. We will not respond again,” TVB wrote in its latest response to Mo.

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Simplified Chinese characters on TVB news programme. Photo: TVB Screencap via Stand News.

Mo’s original letter, sent on the same day, said: “If pointing out that simplified characters are not complete is discrimination, is TVB deliberately switching to use simplified characters and belittling the traditional characters that Hong Kong audience uses [and] discriminating against traditional characters?”

On her Facebook page, Mo joked that the broadcaster’s CEO Mark Lee Po-on has stopped being her pen-friend.

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Lawmaker Claudia Mo. File Photo: Wikicommons.

Netizens reacted quickly to Mo’s Facebook post, with the TVB letter receiving 8,900 “angry” face emojis, as Facebook users took advantage of the social networking website’s new “reaction” function.

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TVB’s letter. Photo: Claudia Mo, via Facebook.

Many commented on the post in support of Mo.

“They know they’re in the wrong. They can’t win, so they claimed [Mo] is speaking nonsense and even said they wouldn’t “play” with you. Childish!” one said.

“I’ll share this to PR disaster [Facebook group],” joked another.

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Simplified Chinese characters on TVB news programme. Photo: TVB Screencap via Stand News.

The Mandarin TVB news programme began to use simplified Chinese characters last Monday, sparking outrage amongst local viewers.

Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan generally use traditional, as opposed to simplified characters, which are preferred in mainland China.

Many netizens expressed their discontent with the new measure when it came out. Some suggested submitting a collective complaint to the Communications Authority, saying that, as TVB holds a Hong Kong licence, it should serve the people of Hong Kong. Others also complained about the fact that no bilingual Nicam services were offered and so Mandarin was the only language available.

TVB Deputy Director Tsang Sing-ming told Ming Pao that for the majority of the day, the J5 channel will air Cantonese programmes with traditional characters, and only the 45-minute Mandarin news broadcast at 8:30pm would carry simplified Chinese subtitles. He also said that currently there were no plans to expand the usage of simplified characters in its programmes.

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.