Wed, Oct 08, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Government chiefs slam sign changes

ROMANIZATION SHIFT Seven DPP local government officials said their primary concern was the cost of changing all their signage to the Hanyu Pinyin system


Supporters of the “Taiwan Mandarin Spelling League” and other groups demonstrate outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei yesterday to protest against the ministry’s policy of promoting the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system.


Chiefs of seven local governments in southern Taiwan said on Monday they oppose the central government’s decision to use the Hanyu Pinyin romanization system on all public signs nationwide.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), Tainan Mayor Hsu Tain-tsair (�?]), Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興), Tainan County Commissioner Su Huan-chih (蘇煥智), Pingtung County Commissioner Tsao Chi-hung (曹啟鴻), Chiayi County Commissioner Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) — all Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members — released a joint statement protesting the decision.

Picking a system for romanizing Chinese should favor simplicity, consistency and be easy for users to understand, and any system used should not be chosen for political purposes or have political overtones, the statement said.

The new measure will not only cause confusion around the country, but will also come at a high price tag, they said.

A preliminary estimate of the cost of converting all public signs in the seven cities and countries to Hanyu Pinyin was NT$500 million (US$15.44 million), they said.

The government adopted the Tongyong Pinyin system under the previous DPP government.

The pan-blue camp had criticized the decision, saying it had been based on political and ideological reasons and that Hanyu Pinyin was being ignored mainly because it originated in and was used in China.

The Executive Yuan recently announced it would switch to Hanyu Pinyin to bring Taiwan in line with international standards.

Hanyu Pinyin was developed in China in the late 1950s.

The government’s new policy was quickly challenged by the Kaohsiung City Government, which said it had only recently changed most of its signage to Tongyong Pinyin and did not want to spend an estimated NT$213 million to convert the signage to Hanyu Pinyin.

The city government said it had spent a lot of money over the past two years to make the romanization on signs more consistent as part of its efforts to build an international English-language environment.

It also said the Executive Yuan’s policy will cause confusion around the country ahead of the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung in July.Around 5,000 foreign athletes and team personnel take part in the games and could run into trouble because of the use of two different romanization systems, city officials said.

Representatives of the seven cities and counties will attend a meeting called by the Ministry of Education to voice their opposition to the new policy.

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