A number of pro-localization groups yesterday rallied in front of the Ministry of Education in Taipei to protest against the government’s adoption of the Hanyu pinyin romanization system for translations of station names along the MRT line between Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Taipei Main Station, calling on the Democratic Progressive Party government to reinstitute its former policy of pushing for nationwide implementation of Tongyong pinyin.
The protesters called on the ministry, the governing body for the nation’s languages, to abandon the Hanyu system adopted by former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and reinstate the Tongyong system, which was promulgated in 2002 as the nation’s standard Mandarin romanization system.
Although the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) identifies Taiwan as a province of China, the organization uses the Tongyong system when referring to places in Taiwan, Taiwan Mandarin Romanization Alliance convener Yu Bor-chuan (余伯泉) said.
“For example, the ISO 3166 standard does not spell Kaohsiung as ‘Gaoxiong,’ just as it retained the spelling for Hong Kong, rather than ‘Xianggang,’ after the territory was handed over to China in 1997,” Yu said.
In addition, the ISO 7098 standard states that Hanyu pinyin is “the official language of the People’s Republic of China,” of which Taiwan is not a part, so the version of Mandarin used by Taiwanese does not fall within that scope, Yu said, adding that Ma led the nation down a path of “suicide” when he submitted to China and made Hanyu pinyin the national standard.
The administration of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) could have readopted Tongyong pinyin as the nation’s official romanization system after it took office, but it has instead treated the issue with indifference; essentially restricting itself to a framework set by Ma, he said.
As Taiwan’s culture and people have diverse origins, Taiwanese have formed a language that is uniquely Taiwanese, Taiwan Frontier convener Hong Hsien-cheng (洪顯政) said.
“The Mandarin used in Taiwan sounds different from that used in China and should have an independent system, just as British English is different from American English,” he said.
The nation’s use of Hanyu pinyin should not be made a political issue, ministry National Language Education Promotion Office head Wu Chung-yi (吳中益) said.
“The romanization used on road signs and at transportation stations is intended for foreigners... Every foreigner learning Mandarin learns Hanyu pinyin, because it is the international standard,” Wu said. “The decision has nothing to do with the nation’s self-determination or any ideologies, because the key point is to ensure that foreigners can read signs.”
“It is impossible to reason with the groups, as they are bent on politicizing the matter,” he added.