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Language Bill under debate in China

The Straits Times, 4 July 2000

Draft law before the legislature seeks to make Mandarin and written Chinese language the official medium

BEIJING -- The Chinese legislature opened a six-day session yesterday to debate a law making Mandarin, or putonghua as it is known in China, and the written Chinese language based on it the nation's official medium, state press reported.

The draft law on the nationwide written and spoken language was submitted to the standing committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) yesterday, according to the Xinhua news agency.

It defines Chinese language as the only legal nationwide language, Xinhua reported.

A uniform language has an important bearing on the state's unification, national unity as well as social progress, Mr Wang Jialiu, vice-chairman of the NPC's education committee was quoted as saying by the state paper, the People's Daily.

He said that there were three guidelines for the drawing up of the language law.

First, the language has to be the same as that used in China's Constitution and legal Acts, he said.

Second, it must stipulate that all policies and directives which call for adherence to the modern form of the Chinese language are to be upheld so that its usage can be better regulated and can be standardised.

Third, in language management, we should be practical and must always be conscious that language can be a sovereignty issue, he added.

He reiterated that making the Chinese language China's lingua franca does not mean getting rid of other indigenous languages.

The languages of all nationalities in China should be equally respected and freely used by the people and any form of discrimination against them must be prohibited, he said.

China's 56 ethnic minorities speak 73 different languages which have 55 written forms, of which 26 are still much in use.

Also to be debated during the NPC session were two draft amendments to the law on judges and prosecutors which aim to improve the quality of the nation's judiciary, Xinhua said.

Those who are appointed judges or prosecutors must be graduates of law schools who have been practising law for at least two years or post-graduates who have practised law for at least one year, one draft amendment said.

Another amendment would empower courts and procuratorates to revoke the appointment of judges and prosecutors at lower levels who did not comply with legal procedures and requirements.--AFP