LCQ6: Using the Chinese language more extensively within the Government

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Ngan Man-yu and a written reply by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mrs Ingrid Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (May 3):
     In 1995, the Government published the Report of the Working Group on the Use of Chinese in the Civil Service, which stated clearly that its long-term policy objective was to develop a civil service which was able to communicate effectively in both Chinese and English and speak in Cantonese, Putonghua and English. With the series of measures rolled out by the then Official Languages Agency, an environment was created within the Government to facilitate the more extensive use of the Chinese language in the civil service. However, there are views that since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, English has remained as the main language used within the Government whilst the status of the Chinese language has all along been suppressed. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has any plans to require various bureaux/departments to shift to having their internal documents (including circulars, circular memoranda, notices and public notices, etc) and email correspondence drafted and issued in Chinese in future, or require that the texts concerned be available in both Chinese and English versions;
(2) of the number of sets of internal guidelines/codes of practice in use within the Government which are currently available in English only, the names of such guidelines/codes, their respective dates of last revision and the reasons for the lack of a Chinese version; and
(3) whether it has any future plans to further enhance the status of the Chinese language (including Putonghua) within the Government, e.g. arranging for directorate civil servants to take the lead in using the Chinese language more extensively within the Government; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     Article 9 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China stipulates that in addition to the Chinese language, English may also be used as an official language by the executive authorities, legislature and judiciary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. According to the Official Languages Ordinance (Cap. 5), both Chinese and English are the official languages in Hong Kong and possess equal status. It is the Government's policy to maintain a fully biliterate (Chinese and English) and trilingual (Cantonese, Putonghua and English) civil service.
     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:
(1) and (3) The Government uses the appropriate language in conducting official business and for internal communication, taking into account the operational needs, the nature of the matter in hand and the target recipients. To facilitate and encourage the wider use of Chinese by civil servants in discharging their official duties, the Official Languages Division (OLD) of the Civil Service Bureau (CSB) provides a wide range of language support services. OLD has compiled "Guidebooks on Official Chinese Writing", which set out the writing principles and formats of common types of official documents (including memoranda, official correspondence, circulars and notices, file minutes and minutes of meetings) and expressions used in them, illustrated with examples, to serve as a guide to civil servants in drafting these documents. It has also compiled and updated the Glossary of Terms Commonly Used in Government Departments for reference by civil servants when drafting or translating official documents, and operates telephone hotlines to answer their enquiries on language usage. It also publishes "Word Power", a quarterly publication on the Chinese and English languages and Chinese and Western cultures, and organises thematic talks and quizzes for civil servants to enhance their skills in official writing and their interest in learning. In addition, OLD provides coaching and Pinyin services for civil servants who need to speak publicly in Putonghua, and runs telephone hotlines to answer enquiries on Putonghua usage. On training, the Civil Service College provides civil servants with various Chinese and Putonghua training programmes as well as e-learning resources, covering language skills required for general office work, to help them continuously enhance their ability in using Chinese and Putonghua. Over the years, the use of Chinese within the Government has been increasingly common, with more and more official documents directly drafted in Chinese. We will continue our efforts in promoting the wider use of Chinese in the civil service through support services and training.
(2) Government bureaux/departments compile numerous internal guidelines/codes of practice according to their operational needs. We do not collect information on the language used in such guidelines/codes. As a general rule, the language used in them depends on their intended readers and contents. While guidelines/codes to be read by all staff will be in Chinese or bilingual, those on professional and technical matters may not necessarily have a Chinese version. We will remind government bureaux/departments from time to time to consistently implement the Government's language policy and ensure that the language used for written communication with the public and within the Government, including in guidelines/codes, meets the actual needs.

Ends/Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:45