September 17, 2021
Preventing the Miswriting of Country Names with Quality Management
On Tuesday (September 14, 2021), when the Chief Executive Carrie Lam met with the media, the background scene wrote “The People’s Republic of China”. However, the Chinese characters for “China” were mistakenly written as 「中國」instead of 「中華」. This was an incredibly low-level mistake that undermines Hong Kong’s image.
The United States and Japanese governments have also made similar mistakes. On one hand, during the G20 meeting in 2017 the United States mistakenly referred to the Chinese leader Xi Jinping as the chairman of the “Republic of China”, and had to apologize. Japan, on the other hand, misplaced its national flag during the Paralympic Opening Ceremony this year, and had to lower and rearrange the Japanese flag before raising it again.
Nobody is perfect, but the Hong Kong government’s problem is that it makes the same mistakes time and time again! As early as the report submitted in 2008 to the United Nations, as well as the Chief Executive’s speech in 2015, the Hong Kong government has miswritten the Chinese characters for “China” in the country’s name. There should have been extensive review performed before the official disclosure, yet it is still possible to make the same mistake again. In fact, it is not difficult to prevent such errors; starting with quality management, you can eliminate the occurrence of low-level errors:
1. The Hong Kong government has miswritten the Chinese characters for “China” in the country’s name many times before. Has the Hong Kong government ever conducted a risk assessment on the matter? Identify the risks based on the severity of the incident and its frequency of occurrences, and then find the appropriate rectification methods.
2. Is awareness training provided to the relevant personnel? If the process requires so many stages and people (first draft, proofreading, printing, posting), how has no one spotted the mistake? Does the first writer have an acceptable degree of awareness and competence? The competence of the management who delegates the writing work is even more doubtful!
3. Aside from carefully selecting writers for such important writing work, has the Hong Kong government used modern technology to assist in the process? For instance, has the automatic correction or reminder function setting in Microsoft Office software been integrated into the writing process?
4. A good quality management system promotes the establishment of trust, so increased levels of inspection when a problem is discovered is ill-advised. Establishing trust does not mean non-intervention, however, so surprise inspection can be done as a compromise solution.
5. Perform drills and rehearsals at irregular intervals to maintain tension and improve resilience within civil servants as a control.
The Chief Executive or the Chief Executive’s Office should have demonstrated high-level leadership in the accident. Why can’t they take the initiative to hold review meetings and investigate the cause of the accident, like Zhang Ruimin of Haier group did when he smashed those defective refrigerators? It would show that the Chief Executive attaches great importance to this issue, thereby enhancing the vigilance of all relevant civil servants within the Hong Kong government.