After the first rally on August 1, 2010, there was another protest organised by Choi Suk-fong in Wan Chai a month later. Only seven people turned up and four were foreigners. Cecilie Gamst Berg, a Norwegian who has lived in Hong Kong for 22 years and has been teaching Cantonese for 16 years, was one of them.
Berg spent five months learning Mandarin in mainland China before coming to Hong Kong. She did not understand Cantonese when she first came. It sounded to her like people quarrelling. But as she learnt more, she began to fall in love with it.
She thinks Cantonese is beautiful and melodious like “angels dancing on a harp”. Berg says Cantonese is more energetic and fun than Mandarin.
These days, Berg is a self-professed Cantonese “fundamentalist”. She writes blogs, uploads videos, teaches Cantonese and takes part in social campaigns.
“My life mission is to make Cantonese a world language and rule the world,” Berg proudly proclaims.
Berg also joined the pro-Cantonese protest in Guangzhou the previous month. She later uploaded a video of the event which showed the heavy police presence on the day.
Berg says she is angry and disappointed but not surprised that only three locals turned up for the second pro-Cantonese rally in Hong Kong.
“That’s my experience. Hong Kong people don’t really care about their language and culture very much,” says Berg. “They [Hong Kong people] just say they can’t help.”
She believes Hong Kong people have been taught to look down on Cantonese, because of a Confucian mentality. “This is ingrained so deeply so I am hoping to change the mindset. That’s why I’m teaching all my students Cantonese,” she says.
She adds that Cantonese cannot be a dialect because it has its own characters and grammar. It is, in fact, a language.
Berg hopes Kong Qingdong’s outburst will spur Hong Kong people to stand up to Putonghua and the mainland government. “I am going to spend the rest of my life fighting for Cantonese in every way I can and I am finding more and more outlets every day,” she says.