Guangzhou Expels Cantonese Activists

Supporters of the Cantonese language are repatriated to their home provinces ahead of a prominent sports competition.

Support Cantonese Rally 305.jpg A photo submitted by a netizen shows two women looking down on a rally held by the "Support Cantonese" movement in Guangzhou.
Photo submitted by netizen Cat730

HONG KONG—Authorities in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou have expelled two activists who helped organize a movement in support of the Cantonese language in the city, which is to host the Asian Games in November.

Xiao Yong, who was detained by city authorities for 15 days last month for "incitement to an illegal demonstration," said he had been escorted back to his registered hometown in the southern province of Hunan by national security police.

"I was met by police from [Hunan]," said Xiao, who was part of a campaign organized by netizens as a rapid response to comments by a Guangzhou lawmaker in favor of Mandarin programming instead of the local dialect of Cantonese.

"They said it was just so as to be in line with the preparations for the Asian Games."

"What they meant was, I would be unable to return to Guangzhou for the time being, because of security concerns around the Asian Games," Xiao said.

"There are a lot of people I know in Guangzhou [who are from elsewhere in China], who have been 'invited' to go back home," he added.

Family members pressured

A fellow activist in the "Support Cantonese" campaign, Zheng Chuangtian, said he had been forced to return to his registered hometown of Chaozhou, on the coast of Guangdong, after police in the city pressured his elderly parents.

"The national security police here visited my family and told them to force me to come back home," Zheng said. "My family was scared by this, and I had to come back just to reassure them."

He said the Guangzhou national security police had already warned him by telephone that he wouldn't be welcome in the city over China's "golden week" holiday, which began with National Day celebrations on Oct. 1.

"Some of my friends have already left Guangzhou during this sensitive time, and some of them are under surveillance by police outside their apartment buildings," said Zheng, who was himself detained for 10 days by Guangzhou authorities for "spreading rumors" after he told Hong Kong-based followers of his Twitter account about the "Support Cantonese" campaign.

"At the time, it never occurred to me that they would detain me," said Zheng. "It was just a few tweets, and they weren't even originated by me."

"I just re-tweeted some other people's tweets, and they detained me for that."

'Support Cantonese' movement

The "Support Cantonese" movement saw hundreds of campaigners take to the streets in Guangzhou and neighboring Hong Kong in August after a mainland Chinese political body called for cuts in Cantonese-language broadcasts, sparking fears that Cantonese culture was under attack from Beijing.

Protest organizers said at the time that they had exchanged news with fellow activists in Guangzhou via the microblogging service Twitter and through the social media site Facebook, both of which have fueled a resurgence in the use of written Cantonese, historically considered a threat by Chinese rulers.

Pro-Cantonese protesters, whose native tongue was often portrayed as a second-class language when Hong Kong was under British colonial rule, said they felt that their language was now under attack from Beijing.

Guangzhou police said the protests were the work of "a small number of people with insufficient rationality and one or two with ulterior motives" and that "individual troublemakers would be punished."

Original reporting in Cantonese by Fung Yat-yiu and in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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Oct 08, 2010 01:58 AM

In Tibet & Xinjiang, the Tibetan & Uighur languages are under attack respectively by the CCP. Now Cantonese speakers in China are finding out the CCP doesn't want them to preserve & promote their own language which is very different from Mandarin spoken by the CCP leaders. What's next? Will the CCP outlaw any language but Mandarin spoken anywhere in the PRC? Will Cantonese, Tibetans & Uighurs go to jail b/c they speak their own languages?