What the People’s Republic of China is doing now, is to regard itself as the “Middle Kingdom” by establishing its own legitimacy in culture. By doing this, the Communists have to eradicate the traditions rooted in previous dynasties. So they refuse to educate traditional culture, and even try to sweep Traditional Chinese characters into history. How such acts are different from, say, at the time when the Japanese invaded China, who tried to establish a new dynasty and claimed their culture as legitimate? To claim its legitimacy, the People’s Republic of China never rests to destroy the “previous Chinas”. But there are still the conquered subjects who are true inheritors of the culture. They are living humans, not corpses. On one hand, the Chinese emphasized we (the conquered) and they belong to the same nation, but on the other hand they use every means to prevent our culture from blossoming in this country. What we feel is not tolerance, harmony or unification. This is simply cultural eradication.
Let’s imagine, if our descendants cannot read our words and speak our language, what is the difference of this from being annihilated? You may say language is ever changing. But please imagine, in some time of future the Earth becomes a united state and Chinese becomes history. Everyone in that state only speak and read English, they cannot comprehend the books and movies in Chinese except through translations. Even those descendants still maintain blood linkage, even they are still called Chinese, is that really the future that you want?
If we (Hong Kong and Taiwan) and they (mainland China) are not labeled as the same nation, we and they can still maintain and protect own cultures from respective perspectives. Unfortunately, we and they share the same label: Chinese. Simplified Chinese is also named Chinese, while our traditions which we toiled to protect for are being displaced. Since we share the same label, our traditions are regarded as illegitimate and anachronism. There are still many loyalists to Traditional Chinese. However, facing the stubbornness of the government and academic institutions, many succumbed as they are no match to their authoritative power.
Even now you can master Traditional Chinese, if your descendants do not watch pirated Hong Kong movies or play The Legend of the Sword and Fairy (仙劍奇俠傳, a popular PC game in Hong Kong and Taiwan), the legacy of Traditional Chinese culture will vanish at his time. Is there any way to protect such culture which exists in Hong Kong and Taiwan which is different from China, just like the use of Kanji by the Japanese? We can’t just let it be. There are already many who aspire to be the founding fathers of new Chinese culture, thanks to their selfishness, they never cease to betray and destroy the traditional Chinese culture.
Chinese chauvinists always emphasize to unite everything in the state, be it culture, writing, language and the country. In their mindset, there is only ONE China and ONE Chinese language. Such hysteria to emphasize unification implies there is no room for the minorities and other ethnic groups. Once we accept our identity as a Chinese, it means that we are waiting to be destroyed and muted by such unification.
We the Hong Kongers speak Cantonese, write Traditional Chinese characters, have a passion for freedom and democracy and respect personal rights. None of these seem acceptable to this state named China. To China, all of them are heresy. So they hinder them, stop us from promoting or educating them and never cease to criticize them.
They don’t kill us today, but they stop us from passing these things to the younger generations. They’re just killing the younger generations.
Why must we be forced to protect such cultures in the name of Cantonese or Taiwanese? If the mainlanders finds Traditional Chinese disgusting, which they repeatedly label it as anachronism, is there still any way to protect such cultures except founding a new nation by ourselves? Kanji in Japan and Korea will not be altered or destroyed by Simplified Chinese, but ours will be, under the authoritative force with the slogan: “use of Simplified Chinese is an irreversible trend”. As the fact speaks of itself, foreign nations protect traditional Chinese culture better than China itself. It seems that China is encouraging the ethnic minorities to find their own nations, isn’t it?
Compare two scenarios: when we make trips to Japan, we always see how well the cultural heritage is protected, and the fate of the culture treasures in China. Isn’t it paradoxical for the Japanese, as a foreign nation, to preserve the cultural heritage of Kanji well, while we, who are told to belong to the same nation, have to witness the vanish of our traditional culture?
Fortunately, there is someone like us who learn Traditional Chinese characters since childhood, so that you can enjoy pirated Hong Kong movies, Taiwan variety shows and The Legend of the Sword and Fairy. If there were no Hong Kongers or Taiwanese to find such cultures, Traditional Chinese culture becomes dead culture.
A dead culture should be better called history than culture. Those originated from Traditional Chinese culture, be it literature, thoughts or customs, will all vanish, no matter they belong to the upper or lower class. If fortunate, they may still remain in the tiny circles of some academic aristocracies. Traditional Chinese belongs to everyone than academic aristocracies, but that will be the case in China if they vanish.
One of the utilities of writing is to communicate and to exchange idea; another is for cultural inheritance and establishment of identity. It is a fact that we (Hong Kongers and Taiwanese) and they (Chinese mainlanders) have different cultural identities. Why can’t we regard each other as blood brothers, but as formidable enemies? It is more or less due to the fact that the Simplified Chinese users’ hostility to us, criticizing us as “writing incorrectly”, “it is not legitimate Chinese”, or just say it is ugly, or they can’t read it. Simply we have two kinds of writings in China: Traditional and Simplified. In the international documents prepared by mainland Chinese government, no Traditional Chinese version has been prepared. So they are using political force to degrade us into second-class citizens in cultural sense.
Even in the British colonial times, the Hong Kong colonial government was willing to prepare Chinese and English bilingual subtitles on screen. Now, the Chinese government thinks that only Chinese subtitles will be enough, they even have to enforce it by law. Such undisguised segregation by status, power and intimacy is just unbelievable.
So here is a war going on between us. Not a military war, but a political and cultural war.
China always emphasizes unification; there is no room for the rest. Unification fills up the mind of every Chinese, they have no room to think about something else. Their accommodation to foreign culture is restricted to foreigners. To the unorthodox cultures belonging to the people of the same country, they just eradicate them. They don’t think such eradication as cruel, they think this is natural and a task destined by history. So to the Chinese, assimilation means eradication. When the Tibetans got assimilated, there are at least some people who know what is happening, but for us who are usually categorized as “Han Chinese” ethnically, such kind of assimilation really sounds ironic.
Is it to become a Chinese, you must to speak Putonghua, write Simplified Chinese and succumb to authoritative bureaucrats? May you don’t think so, but most Chinese do, they even force others to think so, and they are backed up by their government.
Users of different languages have different perspectives, aesthetic conceptions and ways of handling matters. Language, as an integral part of culture, has significant impacts on the way of thinking. Groups of people speaking similar languages are more likely to become assimilated by eliminating their differences, while those speaking distant languages likely preserve their cultures better.
That is to say, to preserve languages is to increase the diversity of cultures.