"Single Language Releases are Exceptional"

Information Services Department

* The ISD’s Reply to Our Concern over Official Language Policy

Chinese and English are Hong Kong's official languages. We endeavour to roll out all press releases in both languages as far as possible. Exceptions to this arise in individual cases such as press releases on speeches delivered by officials on certain occasions and transcripts of remarks by officials at media sessions. In these cases, the language of the press release is determined by the language they spoke.

The development of round-the-clock news places greater demand for the Government's information dissemination and timely response. Soon after media sessions, the remarks by officials are turned into press releases by information officers worked in different bureaux and departments. As most of the questions and answers tend to be in Chinese, the number of Chinese-only press releases is therefore rising.

Replies by officials in the Legislative Council also make up a large number of Chinese-only press releases, which are transcripts of the proceedings and are issued in the language in which they are delivered.

In addition, quite a large number of Chinese-only press releases are on horticulture talks, occupational safety seminars, local district activities and affairs, free programmes, etc. Press releases on these events are issued in Chinese because the events are conducted in Cantonese. If press releases on these events are issued in English, people who do not know Chinese may join the events, leading to embarrassment or complaints. Hence, press releases on these programmes are issued in Chinese.

Publicity for cultural programmes such as Cantonese opera, Chinese opera, local concerts etc also make up a substantial number of Chinese-only press releases. Again, all these events are conducted in Chinese and no English subtitles are provided. Those who do not know Chinese would not be able to understand the programmes. We do not issue press releases in English on these programmes in order not to mislead those who do not know Chinese into buying tickets and to disappoint them at the show.

It is our policy to use both languages, written and spoken, as a means of communication with the public and the media. In general, Government officials always give opening remarks in both languages and stand ready to take questions in Cantonese, Putonghua or English at media sessions. There is no question of refusing to answer questions in English.

We fully appreciate the importance of both English and Chinese in an international city like Hong Kong. We will closely monitor the situation and fine-tune the arrangements as and when necessary.