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Cantonese Repression in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, a group created to promote the use of Cantonese was pushed to close, after authorities raided its founder’s family home last week.

To justify the move, the government cited a controversial national security law and asked the foundation to remove all traces of a fictional three-year-old short story.

The raid has been viewed as another blast on freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

The story (written as an essay) explores the narrative of a man who emigrated from Hong Kong to the UK with his parents in 2020 – the year the national security law was imposed. After the death of his parents in 2050, the man visits Hong Kong, only to find the city’s history washed away by authoritarian rule.

The article ends with the phrase, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” which was written by the late Czech novelist Milan Kundera. Kundera’s large body of work is often critical of Czechoslovak communism.

Speaking to the BBC, The Hong Kong Language Learning Association’s founder Andrew Chan said that he decided to cease operations at the organization upon gaining legal advice.

“My biggest concern is the safety of my family members and friends in Hong Kong. I found out that if I did not shut down the organization, they could keep using the materials online, and harass the people I care about,” he said. Mr Chan is 28 and teaches Chinese and Cantonese online. 

Cantonese is spoken by an overwhelming majority of people in the city, in addition to the Guangdong province in China.

Mr Chan founded the Hong Kong Language Learning Association with a mission and ethos of protecting “language rights of the Hong Kong people”.

Tensions between Hong Kong and mainland China have commonly arisen around language, identity, and differences in political convictions.

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