Simplified characters in Hong Kong police newsletter

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It's strange that there are some simplified characters in the Hong Kong police newsletter, but stranger still that they are only sporadic:

Simplified Chinese characters (in red circles) are found in the online
edition of OffBeat. Police Commissioner Andy Tsang (inset) holds a copy of
the newsletter at a press conference last month. Photos: Stand News, HKEJ

Source:  "Suspicious characters: Police newsletter draws concerns" eijinsight (2/5/15).

Since no Hong Kong educated individual would use simplified characters this way, their existence in the Hong Kong police newsletter indicates that already more than four years ago, mainland educated individuals had infiltrated the Hong Kong police department.

As for why there are only some simplified characters, this would seem to indicate that these articles were first written in simplified characters, leaving behind "glitches" after being converted into traditional characters using computer conversion software, which is usually pretty dumb.

This implies that these articles were drafted by mainland officials, or at least by Hong Kong officials who did not receive local elementary education there.

[Thanks to Anders Corr and Abraham Chan]


  1. John Rohsenow said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 7:30 am

    So, the "handwriting on the wall" will be written in…????

  2. J Liu said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 7:33 am

    The screenshot you gave was shopped, and also the traces are obvious. You can read the original one here:

    If you can't read Chinese (traditional or simplified) , you still can read the English version:

    This press release was issued by the Hong Kong police in 2015. What are you doing now with the photoshopped picture?

  3. Twill said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 8:22 am

    @J Liu

    I'm going to be charitable and assume that you're unknowingly spreading misinformation, not knowingly disinformation. The article as it appears on the website today was silently emended shortly after it was ridiculed all over social media. That the original article included simplified characters can be verified by looking at website archives taken just after it was first published, such as this one:

  4. J Liu said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 8:27 am

    Educated Chinese can read and write traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese, as well as your English. With a click of a mouse in MS Word, one can easily convert traditional and simplified to each other. Just as simple as that. Unfortunately, the screenshot shows that you do not understand Chinese at all.
    You can't even read Chinese. What makes you think simplified characters are for less educated people? According to your post, traditional implies a high educational level, simplified means a low educational level, then what is English? BrE, AmE, and many other Englishes, which one is for you?
    Hong Kong Police press releases are available in many languages online. What is their education level? How about I reply to your post in traditional Chinese characters to give you a taste of 'educated'?

  5. Twill said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 8:41 am

    @J Liu

    The screenshot is of the very same HK police website. If it demonstrates Chinese illiteracy (which is your accusation, not mine), then it reflects poorly on them, not me. Your screed about traditional vs simplified characters is an embarrassing attempt to deflect away from the original point that the HK Police put out a press release that was demonstrably written by a Mainlander.

  6. J Liu said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 9:04 am

    Whether it is simplified or traditional has nothing to do with ideology or politics. It is a choice of cultural and writing habits. I am sorry if you think that the ‘traces’ left by people who write simplified characters indicating that they are the manipulating people who write traditional characters.
    Differences in writing systems are not a criterion for distinguishing different groups of people, nor are they a criterion for distinguishing between levels of education. If you believe that having a few simplified characters in traditional Chinese characters is political manipulation, your reasoning is far-fetched. Not to mention, your evidence alone is unverifiable.

  7. Twill said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 9:19 am

    @J Liu

    I don't know who brought up "political manipulation", methinks the lady doth protest too much. You can try to spin it a hundred ways, but the fact remains that this press release for the HK police, which is supposed to be independent of Mainland control for the time being, contained errors that indicate that it was drafted in simplified Chinese characters, which are taught in schools on the Mainland, and not in Hong Kong.
    My evidence is not alone and indeed corroborates the news report linked in this blog post, whereas you have nothing but bluster up your sleeve.

  8. Twill said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 9:21 am

    Inconsistencies, more properly, which are erroneous in the given context.

  9. J Liu said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 9:34 am

    Singapore also uses simplified characters. Why didn't you say it was written by Singaporeans. Whether or not your evidence is true, my response to your post, from very the beginning, was to respond to your point of view, not to impose anything on you.

  10. Twill said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 9:44 am

    @J Liu

    And my intent was to amiably correct the baseless accusation that this gaffe was in any way falsified. If you're conceding as much, then let the story stand on its own merits. I don't care to argue more.

  11. J Liu said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 9:52 am

    The question of traditional and simplified characters is raised in your article and it is the basis of key 'evidence' for your article. I am merely responding to your point of view. If you think that a regular press release about tech update needs a mainlander to write a rough draft, you're overthinking it.

    My previous response was to tell you that judging people's identity, or even their motivation, based on the languages or writing systems they use, is itself biased. Evidence found in a biased way is lame, I'm afraid. I don't think there's any need to argue. Thank you.

  12. Christian Weisgerber said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 2:22 pm

    Is this the first time that LL has attracted a PRC government shill?

  13. Kenny Easwaran said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 2:49 pm

    "judging people's identity …, based on the languages or writing systems they use, is itself biased."

    Judging that someone using British spelling was probably educated in the British system (or India, or Australia, …) and someone using American spelling was probably educated in the American system, is a pretty reasonable inference.

    Similarly, judging that someone who uses simplified characters was probably educated in Mainland China (or Singapore, or a small number of other places) while someone using traditional characters was probably educated in Hong Kong or Taiwan (or a small number of other places) is a pretty reasonable inference.

    It's not about what *level* of education someone got – it's *where* they got it.

  14. F Lin said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 5:42 pm

    @Kenny Easwaran

    I want to point out that while in general it is true that people educated in Mainland China/Singapore use simplified characters, and people educated in Hong Kong/Taiwan use traditional characters, but some people in Hong Kong/Taiwan may also use simplified characters mixed with traditional characters since the simplified ones are faster to write.

    For example, Tsai Ing-wen, the current president of Taiwan, wrote simplified characters (if you can read simplified/traditional Chinese)

    This seems similar to the Hong Kong police newsletter case to me.

    It would be better to use the choice of different words than characters to guess where a person gets education:

  15. John Swindle said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 10:21 pm

    Some unexpected characters appear in a 2015 newsletter. They appear to be simplified characters in a document written in traditional characters. If the document were written by hand, the occasional simplified character would represent a variant rather than a switch between politically-charged character sets. But the document was not written by hand. Therefore … what? I don't see that any strong conclusion is warranted.

  16. Victor Mair said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 11:37 pm

    @John Swindle:

    "Therefore … what?"

    It's all explained in the o.p.

  17. Guy_H said,

    August 15, 2019 @ 11:39 pm

    Using simplified or variant characters when handwriting is very common in Taiwan and Hong Kong, from the Taiwanese president all the way down to the man on the street. The choice to use it is no more controversial or remarkable than switching between Arabic and Chinese numerals.

    What is unusual is employing simplified characters in printed form, unless the target audience is non-local. Moreover, it is impossible to mix traditional and simplified characters when typing because word processing programs don't allow for it – you generally have to choose one or the other. Using both in the same sentence would be like using Arial and Times New Roman font in a single sentence – it just wouldn't happen. The only time you do see it is when someone has used a computer program to lazily convert from simplified to traditional and not bothered to proof read.

    Proper proof reading is required, because most computer programs do not account for the fact that simplified script occasionally uses a Chinese character which is also used in traditional Chinese but with a different meaning. Or sometimes, two traditional characters have been conflated into a single simplified character, so the computer doesn't know which one to pick during conversion. The classic example is 后 which means "queen" or "afterwards" in simplified but traditional differentiates the two meanings with completely different characters (后 and 後). These are telltale signs that a simplified to traditional conversion program was used without proof-reading.

  18. John Swindle said,

    August 16, 2019 @ 4:22 am

    I'm sorry my earlier comment was unclear. My question was about the strength of the evidence. Yes, automatic conversion from simplified to traditional characters is a plausible explanation for the mix of characters in the document. Yes, Mainland authorship or infiltration of the Hong Kong police are possible explanations for how that could have happened. I'm just not sure those conclusions are forced. We don't know who wrote the document or how or in collaboration with whom. If it was written by a Mainland official, that's one thing. If it was written by some Mainland Chinese immigrant who had joined the HK police, or even by J Liu's mythical Singaporean, then how do we determine whether he or she was an infiltrator or just a poor shmuck caught between writing systems?

  19. Victor Mair said,

    August 16, 2019 @ 7:22 am

    Mythical Singaporeans, poor schmucks, and what not…. Talk about forcing an issue!

  20. ~flow said,

    August 17, 2019 @ 9:21 am

    That escalated quickly.

    I think as far as the "this picture is doctored / has been photoshopped" allegation goes, it can not be substantiated because of as quoted by Twill.

    As for the "Differences in writing systems are not a criterion for distinguishing different groups of people" part, at least the government in Peking would heartily disagree on that one.

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