Politics Thoughts on Writing 中文文章

原來香港政府新聞稿里的英文可以爛成這樣

今次修改的,是特區政府對美國制裁那十一個官員的回應。我選了該文的其中四段來點評。

今次修改的,是特區政府對美國制裁那十一個官員的回應。我選了該文的其中四段來點評。

無論是要到海外升學的學生,還是希望提升自己的Business English的在職人士,我都能提供度身定做的英語寫作指導服務,仔細找出學生文章里的所有病句並提供修改方案,傳授一般課本沒教的東西。有興趣跟我學how to write in native English, 可以跟我聯系:michelle.ng@gmail.com

原稿的每一段我各給一個號碼標簽,這樣點評起來更方便。

新聞稿的原址:https://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/202008/08/P2020080800317.htm

1. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government has today (August 8) vehemently criticised the so-called “sanctions” by the United States (US) Government against 11 officials of the Central People’s Government and the HKSAR Government as shameless and despicable.

2. “Imposed under the so-called Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals List of the US Department of the Treasury, the latest US Government measure represents blatant and barbaric interference in the internal affairs of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), using Hong Kong as a pawn in its ploy to create troubles in China-US relationship, out of self-serving interests of some US politicians,” a Government spokesman said

Mark Twain once pleaded “when you catch an adjective, kill it”; the first two paragraphs of the Hong Kong government’s press release on the U.S. sanctions can act as a poster child for what happens when Twain’s exhortation goes unheeded. Description of the sanctions as “so-called,” ”shameless and despicable,”  “blatant and barbaric“ – such shrillness can put off even those who feel neutral about the sanction issue. As a general rule, one should abstain from using so many strong adjectives so soon in one’s statement on an issue, because establishing credibility is crucial for this form of writing, and there’s little or no space to do this at so early a stage.

I would also omit the“vehemently” before “criticizes,” for such a choice of words further deepens the impression that the government doesn’t have a case but is desperate to make one. A quick solution would be to use instead a single verb that has more punch than “criticize”, like “condemn” or “denounce.”

Another issue: to claim, without offering any proof, that “some US politicians” can sway China policies to serve their interests and to express the claim in such a blunt manner amounts to setting up the already-beleaguered Hong Kong government for further ridicule. A way out would be to tone down the one-sidedness of the claim by hiding behind a formal manner of speaking.

I would rewrite the two paragraphs as follows:

Today (Aug 8), the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government condemned the United States (US) Government’s move to sanction Hong Kong and mainland officials as unwarranted.

“The US Department of Treasury’s measure of marking 11 officials as Specially Designated Nationals is based on such a flawed understanding of China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong that it is difficult not to suspect the US of harboring baser motives,” a Government spokesman said.

3. Taking advantage of anti-government riots in Hong Kong since June last year, the US Congress and the White House have passed successive laws and pronounced executive order targeting the HKSAR under the pretext of human rights, democracy and autonomy.  It should be obvious to and resented by many people, locally and around the world, that the US acts are displaying double standards and hypocrisy, let alone blatantly breaching international laws and basic norms governing international relations

“Taking advantage of anti-government riots in Hong Kong since June last year, the US…” – did the writer mean “since June last year, the US has been taking advantage of the riots”, or “”the US has been taking advantage of the riots, which have been roiling Hong Kong since June last year”? The writer should have meant the latter, but the sentence reads as if she had intended to express the former.

“The US Congress and the White House have passed successive laws and pronounced executive order targeting the HKSAR under the pretext of human rights” – passing laws is the province of the Congress while it’s the White House that hands down executive orders. Even though all this is common sense  – and so the writer’s conflation of the functions of the two would hardly have created confusion – she risks losing her reader’s respect in failing to present information this basic properly.

“It should be obvious…that the US acts are displaying double standards and hypocrisy, LET ALONE blatantly breaching international laws” should have been “It should be obvious…that the US acts are displaying double standards and hypocrisy, NOT TO MENTION blatantly breaching international laws”.

Now to a more serious problem about this paragraph: to say that the US’s deviousness “should be obvious to…many people” would be to imply that this is currently not the case. This will naturally make the reader wonder: is there a reason for the world’s want of enlightenment? The suggestion that “many people, locally and around the world” should see through the US’s ploy may also remind the reader that a few months ago, shortly after Beijing announced its plan to impose the national security law on Hong Kong, Chinese state media did manage to cough up a list a countries that supported Beijing’s move: North Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, the Philippines, Syria, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda. I wonder whether this time round, even these countries failed to respond to CCP’s roll call as it scrambled to rally support around the globe. 

My rewrite of paragraph (3):

Indeed, in the light of the US’s track record of disparaging other countries for committing deeds it itself has done, it is regrettable though hardly surprising that on the issue of Hong Kong, the US, which has its own security law, has the presumption to deem China’s enactment of such a law for Hong Kong as unjustifiable.

4. Hong Kong is an inalienable part of the PRC. Upholding and implementing the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ meets the interests of Hong Kong people and represents the shared aspiration of all Chinese people.

While paragraph (4) has none of the errors in syntax found in abundance elsewhere in the press release, in insisting that everyone in the world’s most populous country is applauding Beijing’s tightening grip on Hong Kong, Lam’s administration seems to be giving credence to Michael Pompeo’s claim that “the biggest lie that (CCP) tell is to think that they speak for 1.4 billion people who are surveilled, oppressed, and scared to speak out.” Paragraph (4) actually brings to mind a scene that happened in Xinjiang recently: no longer able to cope with a lockdown that had lasted for over a month, residents in the province’s capital sought release by yelling out of their windows at a pre-arranged hour one night . Listen to their cries of anguish and ask yourself: had they known about Pompeo’s statement, wouldn’t they have regarded him as having spoken up for them

I'm Michelle Ng (吳若琦), an Oxford-educated bilingual political writer and English writing coach based in Hong Kong. I'm currently an English columnist for Apple Daily and Ming Pao, and a Chinese columnist for 眾新聞. I have written for Hong Kong Free Press, The Wall Street Journal and The Vancouver Sun. 

1 comment on “原來香港政府新聞稿里的英文可以爛成這樣

  1. Dennis Chau

    Thank you for your teaching and willing to improve my writing from you.

    Like

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