Taiwan president Ma wants to allow writing in simplified characters
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
Page 1
2009-06-10 12:47 AM
President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday he wanted Taiwan and China to cooperate in using traditional characters in print but simplified characters from China for writing.

His comments, made to visiting overseas compatriots from the United States, invited accusations that he wanted to "unify" the use of characters in Taiwan and China.

Taiwan and Hong Kong use the traditional Chinese characters, while China and Singapore use a simplified version introduced by Beijing in the 1950s in an attempt at reducing literacy by providing the public with easier to learn writing.

Ma said he hoped the two sides could negotiate an agreement which would favor using the traditional characters for printing and allow the simplified characters in writing. Presidential official Tsai Chung-li later clarified that Ma did not mean that all writing would have to happen in simplified script.

Only using the traditional form allowed present-day people to stay in touch with classical books from their own culture, Ma said. Being able to read the early characters was essential for going back into history and read masterpieces from 2,000 or even 3,000 years ago, according to the president.

In many Chinese-language schools overseas, Taiwanese students receive education in traditional characters, but students from China study the simplified characters, he told his Overseas Chinese visitors. The president also remarked that it was far easier for Taiwanese to read simplified texts than it was for Chinese to learn how to read the traditional characters.

Ma said he supported a bid to have the traditional form of Chinese writing recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as part of world heritage.

The system of writing was unique in that it bridged centuries of history, Ma said. Critics accused him of being too eager to adopt Chinese standards, saying it was not necessary for Taiwanese to study the simplified version of the characters.

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