Date
24 November 2017
The Hong Kong government says only the style in official terms has changed. The meaning remains. Photo: HKEJ
The Hong Kong government says only the style in official terms has changed. The meaning remains. Photo: HKEJ

Circular on official terminology sparks word war

Political correctness is raising a contentious issue in Hong Kong after the government issued a circular to unify official terms.

It said “China-Hong Kong relations” is not appropriate and should be replaced with “Mainland-Hong Kong relations” and that “one country, two systems” and “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” should be used with brackets, Ming Pao Daily reported Wednesday.

However, no such punctuation marks are needed in “high degree of autonomy”, according to the circular.

No reason was given for the use of parentheses but a government spokesman said it’s part of efforts to promote consistency in government communications. 

He said official terms should be consistent with their use in the Basic Law.

Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the semi-official Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, and Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the government is simply trying to be accurate in the use of words in official documents.

However, Civic Party legislator Claudia Mo questioned the move, saying it’s an attempt to tinker with language in order to manipulate minds.

An administration official said “mainland-Hong Kong relations” is a more appropriate term than “China-Hong Kong relations” because Hong Kong is part of China.

Although the style has changed, the meaning remains, he said.

Lau said some Beijing officials had objected to the term “China-Hong Kong relations” since before the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty.

They disagreed with the implication that Hong Kong is equal to the mainland, he said.

Columnist Chip Tsao called the changes silly and unnecessary.

The term “China-Hong Kong relations” is used on government websites and in information materials of the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau.

– Contact us at english@hkej.com

EL/AC/RA

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