Although the Hong Kong Police Force and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department explained that they had used simplified Chinese merely for law enforcement purposes, many remain unconvinced. They take the move as a sign of the gradual abolition of traditional characters in Hong Kong.
“The Basic Law specified that [Hong Kong’s way of life] would remain unchanged for 50 years. But this clearly is not the case,” says Trevor Ma Chong-sum, the initiator of the Facebook group, “Say no to simplified Chinese; only traditional Chinese in Hong Kong”.
“I am worried that the public will gradually forget that simplified Chinese actually stems from traditional Chinese and that traditional Chinese is the actual root of Chinese,” he says.
Ma is disappointed with the increasing use of simplified Chinese in Hong Kong – pointing to examples from restaurant menus to billboard advertisements. He believes these changes are merely ways of “accommodating mainland consumers” and he thinks they are “intolerable”.
Ma, a recent University of Hong Kong graduate who works at a bank, takes great pride in writing in traditional characters. He believes it identifies him as a Hong Kong citizen.
His Facebook page was created in late December last year with the intention of defending the orthodox script in Hong Kong. It has drawn more than 1,300 members and the number continues to grow every day.
To raise awareness of the seriousness of the problem, the group encourages people to take photographs of public signs and notices written in simplified Chinese and to post these images online. Members also plan to start a campaign that encourages people to paste a traditional Chinese version of a sign beside every one which is in simplified Chinese.
Ma insists that he is not acting out of a belief that one set of characters is superior to the other but because he believes traditional Chinese characters “create a sense of identity”.
For the cultural critic Chan Wan, the social phenomenon of safeguarding traditional Chinese in Hong Kong shows the “awakening” of people who realise there is a need to protect their own values.
“We are all well aware of how the mainlanders are ‘invading’ and ‘occupying’ Hong Kong, but even so, the government doesn’t seem to be doing anything to help solve this problem.”