July 30, 2010 / 7:57 AM / 9 years ago

China to crack down on pro-Cantonese protesters

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in China’s southern city of Guangzhou will punish people who try and organize any more protests in support of the Cantonese dialect, a state-run newspaper said on Friday.

Several hundred people took to Guangzhou’s streets on Sunday to demand the government halt efforts to push aside Cantonese.

The protest was prompted by plans to switch most programing on Guangzhou television stations to the country’s official language, Mandarin, feeding fears that the government wants to phase out Cantonese in official settings.

The China Daily quoted local government official Ouyang Yongsheng as telling a news conference that those who “spread rumors” about Cantonese or organize “illegal rallies” would be punished.

The newspaper quoted unnamed police sources as saying they had detained a person surnamed Yu who “spread the rumor online to call people to attend a rally in support of Cantonese.”

Police broke up the peaceful protest, saying it was illegal.

Ouyang said that Guangzhou would in fact work harder to push Cantonese and not seek to marginalize it.

“The city government will continue to spare no effort to promote ... Cantonese opera, and Cantonese pop music in the coming years,” he was quoted as saying.

The China Daily added that Guangzhou television had promised to continue broadcasting Cantonese shows.

Beijing has promoted Mandarin for decades to unite a nation with thousands of dialects and numerous minority languages.

Cantonese is still widely spoken in the booming southern province of Guangdong, thanks in part to the spillover influence of Hong Kong’s wildly successful and racy vernacular pop culture, but some people fear for its future.

An influx of outsiders seeking work in China’s coastal export hubs has added to the onslaught on local languages.

Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Miral Fahmy

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