Beijing - Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong has triggered a firestorm in China, lamenting the "death" of the Chinese civilisation in the mainland because of the use of simplified Chinese characters.
In a post on Weibo this week, the 50-year-old said that more than half the people in China do not understand traditional Chinese characters, which are still used in Hong Kong and Taiwan and which he called the "orthodox" writing system.
He added: "Sigh. The Chinese civilisation is dead in the mainland."
His comments were quickly challenged by netizens and scholars in China, said reports.
Some Weibo users defended the simplified script, saying it has improved literacy levels in the mainland, reported NetEase news website.
Others netizens, such as one quoted in a Dongfang Jinbao online report, said that by the actor's argument, even fewer people understand ancient scripts such as Oracular Chinese, and so "the Chinese civilisation appears to be thoroughly dead".
Henan University professor Wang Liqun dismissed Wong's comments, saying it would be "flattery" to discuss them.
Ma Dong, host of a Chinese television programme about Chinese writing, had kinder words for the actor.
Ma, who believes that users of simplified Chinese should learn to at least read traditional Chinese, said: "Writing is for communication. Written exchanges in simplified Chinese are low in cost and high in efficiency."
He acknowledged that stars such as Wong who concerned about Chinese culture are "very cute" but added: "Their conclusions are very naive."
Wong was born to a British father and brought up by a Chinese mother in Hong Kong. The varied career of the Golden Horse winner includes hits such as Infernal Affairs (2002) and porn flicks such as Raped By An Angel 4 (1999).
On Weibo, he has since deleted the post attacked by netizens, but denied that his decision was motivated by fear. Instead, he wrote: "Just don't want to share my life with boring people."
Noting he had been called names such as "untouchable", "mongrel" and "Hong Kong dog", he said that if his comments were worthless, "why are they paying so much attention to my nonsense? Why are they going on the propaganda offensive?".