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The Journalist: Too much "Chinese-only" in Press Release

The latest issue of The Journalist was released today. This issue looks at the problem of the diminishing use of English the Government Information Services Department(GIS). According to a study by The Journalist in July, the Chinese-only press releases out-numbered the English-only releases by a ratio of 5.48:1. It is not just about numbers but also the news value of these releases.

Of the 137 Chinese-only press releases, over half of were speeches of government officials and members of the Legislative Council. The fact that Chinese and English are the city’s official languages and anything spoken in the council will become part of our history does not seem to bother the government when providing everything delivered only in Chinese. (See table)

The second largest category is about officials speaking on various occasions. Among them are not merely less newsworthy events such as the anniversary of a kaifong association or charity groups; but also important meetings like the Guangdong-Hong Kong Cooperation Summit.

The third category is made up of transcripts of officials speaking at media “stand-ups”. This is a disturbing trend as officials increasingly resort to informal sessions and “stand-ups” instead of formal press conferences to announce government policies and positions

One case is worth mentioning. On July 18, a press statement headed “No one should be left out: the population survey has the racial minorities at heart” was released by the GIS. It’s about the Department of Statistics preparing questionnaires in ten languages to take care of the racial minorities.

Sounds very sensible? Not exactly, the statement was issued only in Chinese.

Maybe it is not a serious problem for most people. However, how can we envision better prospects for Hong Kong? How can Hong Kong contribute more to our country? Are we to be an international city in China, or merely another Chinese city?

The HKJA believes that the GIS should pay more attention to the English language and the English-speaking world instead of focusing so much on Chinese. Hong Kong should be understood by the world, to emphasize English is not only to help non-Chinese speaking journalists, the more important thing is to ensure that Hong Kong remains a World City and is really connected with the world at large.

This issue of The Journalist also investigates other hot topics in the industry: the spot news information controlled by the police, the follow up of the “off the record briefing problem”, the implementation of the five-day week in newspapers and reflections on the Manila hostage Siege.

The general public is welcome to read these and more from the HKJA website at:

For further enquiries, please call Chong Hiu-yeung, the General Secretary of the HKJA, 2591 0692 or 6972 6404.

Table.  What are the Chinese-only press releases?


July 2010

Chinese-only press release

July 2010

English-only press release

April 2000

Chinese-only press release

Number of press release




As a percentage of the tally








Cultural events




Speech by officials




Transcripts of ad-hoc media session









Transcripts of officials or members speaking in the Legco




Sources: News Archive, Government Information Services



30/09/2010 05:11   updated more
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