Community & Education Hong Kong

Critics and supporters of simplified characters are both biased, says LegCo President Jasper Tsang

Critics and supporters of simplified Chinese characters are biased, said Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-Sing in his column in the Chinese newspaper AM730 on Monday.

His comments came in the wake of a controversial suggestion calling for schoolchildren to learn simplified characters in a recent consultation document.

Simplified characters are a set of Chinese characters with reduced strokes currently in widespread use in China. Hong Kong has always maintained its use of traditional characters.

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing

Jasper Tsang Yok-sing.

“If one criticises simplified characters for destroying Chinese culture or if one thinks that only the simplification of characters represents progress in the writing system, one’s judgement is one-sided,” he wrote.

Tsang referenced the history of Chinese characters. “Chinese characters have gone from simple to complex and from complex to simple throughout their development,” he said, “the trends influenced and affected each other.”

The consultation document released by the Education bureau stated that “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.”

Primary school students.

Primary school students. File Photo: Apple Daily.

Teachers and netizens voiced concerns over the move, which they believe is part of the “mainlandisation” of Hong Kong education.

The Education Bureau has since said that it had no intentions to replace traditional characters with the simplified form.

Previously, Tsang also said in his column that the rash proposal to teach simplified Chinese characters before a mastery of the traditional form will create confusion for schoolchildren.

Critics and supporters of simplified characters are both biased, says LegCo President Jasper Tsang