Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific has come under fire in mainland China (in Chinese) after cabin crew refused to put their Chinese names on the name badges of their uniforms. The controversy started at the end of May, when the airline company ordered its Hong Kong- and Taiwan-based cabin staff to wear name badges embossed with both English and Chinese names. The decision met with a fierce backlash from its employees, who feared that having their Chinese names on their uniforms would make it much easier for passengers to track their identities and cause trouble in their personal lives. In addition, some against the idea were concerned that the policy was intended to please passengers from mainland China. Due to the strong protest, Cathay Pacific announced that it halted the plan, but the debate is still alive in both media and the public.
Some Hong Kong media pointed out that although English is an official language in the city, Chinese — both Mandarin and Cantonese, which is spoken by most locals — is an integral part of Hong Kong’s language environment. Other Hong Kong media reported that when asked why they opposed Chinese name tags, some Cathay Pacific employees said that the Chinese language lacks “sophisticated foreign flavor,” and using Chinese names will diminish their chances of getting along with “high-class and Westernized people” (高端洋化人士 gāoduān yánghuà rénshì).
On the social media platform Weibo, many users were highly critical (in Chinese). One commented, “These people would rather worship foreigners without any dignity than communicate with their fellow countrymen a bit more easily.” Others complained of discrimination. “I felt very strange when I was on their flight before,” one person stated. “The cabin crew on that flight can definitely speak Chinese, as I heard them talking in Chinese among themselves, but they spoke English to passengers from mainland China. They did it on purpose for sure!”
A similar debate about discrimination against Chinese people and the language has been stirred up by a video that went viral showing a woman in Toronto, Canada, “telling Chinese shop assistants to ‘go back to China’ for not speaking English” — see What’s on Weibo for more on this controversy.
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