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Handover fireworks to feature simplified Chinese

Written by
Douglas Parkes

After delaying details of the fireworks ceremony that will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the handover on July 1, it has been revealed that the display will include the characters for ‘China’ in simplified Chinese. The move is certain to rile Hongkongers already resentful of Beijing's increasing encroachment on our Special Administrative Region — is it any surprise that an announcement regarding whether a national leader will come to Hong Kong for the celebrations has been postponed until much nearer the event?

“People in Hong Kong are using [simplified Chinese] as a symbol to distinguish themselves from China,” says Robert Bauer, a Cantonese expert who teaches Chinese linguistics at Polytechnic University and the University of Hong Kong. He added, in our feature The Death of Cantonese, “When they played the [Chinese] national anthem at a football match in Mong Kok stadium, local supporters jeered the national anthem. Lots of people in Hong Kong are resisting the pressure China is trying to put on it. There are people who are very unhappy about promoting Putonghua as the primary method of instruction [the language that schools teach the majority of their subjects in].”

However, in a sop to local sentiment the government has announced that it will play local favourite Below the Lion Rock at the ceremony, which is sure to soothe any wounded pride about the simplified versus traditional debate. The fireworks ceremony will fire a total of 39,888 shells, which is significantly more than the 24,000 fireworks utilised during this year's Lunar New Year celebrations. Is that enough to make you go and watch the show?

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