What seemed like a move to replace bilingual signs at a foodcourt at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with English-only ones was, in fact, the result of "a misunderstanding", the university has clarified.
Responding to the incident, which had riled some members of the Chinese community, NTU's Associate Provost (Student Life), Professor Kwok Kian Woon, said: "NTU would like to assure everyone that Chinese can be used in the signage in its foodcourts, as long as the same information is also displayed in English for the benefit of non-Chinese.
"As a cosmopolitan university, we embrace diversity, and the Chinese culture is an integral part of Singapore's multicultural society."
The university is investigating how the incident arose, he added.
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Lianhe Wanbao reported on Wednesday that stall operators at North Spine Food Court had received a notice telling them to remove all Chinese words from their signage and leave only English ones behind, before renewing their contracts in August.
The foodcourt - one of 12 at NTU - comes under the management of the Select Group, a food service provider. The group directed all questions to NTU.
An NTU spokesman said: "The university would like to clarify that there has been a misunderstanding, and bilingual signs are allowed on stalls, as long as English is one of the two languages used. We are asking Select Group to explain to its stallholders."
When The Straits Times visited North Spine Food Court yesterday, none of its 12 stores had Chinese-only signs or menus. Three stalls carried English-only signage.
Some workers at the foodcourt are confused by the incident. A man working at the chicken rice stall, which displayed a bilingual menu, told The Straits Times (ST) yesterday evening: "They did tell us to change the signboard because we had Chinese words."
Other stall operators ST approached declined to comment.
Media reports of the alleged removal of Chinese signs have resulted in angry comments online.
President of the Chinese Calligraphy Society of Singapore Tan Siah Kwee, 69, told The Straits Times that removing signs that had Chinese words on them "would not be acceptable at all".
He added: "The land (where NTU is) belonged to the former Nanyang University. This affects Chinese heritage; you have to keep some places that remind us of Chinese culture."
The issue was not limited to the foodcourt. Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported yesterday that Prime supermarket, at North Spine Plaza, was told by NTU it could not have Chinese promotional signs displayed inside the supermarket. The foodcourt is located in the plaza.
Taiwanese graduate student Sung Yu Chang, referring to the foodcourt signs, said: "Don't remove the Chinese words... It's good now, they have both English and Chinese. Sometimes, I can't read the English." The 24-year-old added: "But if they really remove the Chinese, I can rely on the pictures, they are quite clear."