Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 29 n° 307

Why Macau is less demanding of democracy than Hong Kong

Posted by fidest press agency su mercoledì, 20 settembre 2017

macauHONG KONG and Macau have much in common. Just 60km apart across the Pearl River delta (and soon to be linked by a bridge), they were both European colonies before being returned to China. Britain handed over Hong Kong in 1997; Portugal handed over Macau two years later. Both are administered under the “one country, two systems” principle, which allows them to retain their systems of government for 50 years. Yet whereas many Hong Kongers agitate loudly and relentlessly for more democracy, the people of Macau appear less concerned. Why is this?Wealth may be part of the answer. Macau is the only part of China where gambling in casinos is legal. In one generation the city has become the world’s largest gambling centre, with the casino industry bringing an abundance of well-paid jobs. GDP per person in 2016 was 554,619 patacas ($73,187), among the highest in the world and 68% higher than in Hong Kong. Wages are supplemented by the government, which gives each resident 9,000 patacas every year. Chinese officials regard Macau as a political model for what Hong Kong should be: compliant with the Communist Party’s wishes and unequivocally patriotic. Loyalty is drilled into people by the media and in schools. A security law, known as Article 23, wielded in the name of punishing treason and secessionism, keeps citizens wary. In Hong Kong, opposition to “patriotic” education and to Article 23 forced the local government to shelve both.
In August Macau’s government asked China’s army for help with clearing up the destruction left by Typhoon Hato, the strongest storm in 50 years. This entailed the first deployment of troops on the streets since the handover in 1999. Were they to be mobilised in Hong Kong, even in a humanitarian role, some people would worry. In Macau, the soldiers’ presence was cheered. The Communist Party’s sway over the territory’s politics predates the end of Portuguese rule. In the 1960s the Cultural Revolution spilled over from the mainland, triggering pro-Communist riots in Macau. Similar unrest in Hong Kong was curbed by the British, but in Macau the party’s influence spread through civil society. By the time of the handover negotiations in the 1980s, China had already turned down two Portuguese efforts to give it back. Unlike Hong Kong, to which China promised the eventual introduction of “universal suffrage” in elections for the territory’s leadership, Macau received no such pledge. While many in Macau appear content, there are still grumbles. Residents complain about the cost of buying a home, a shortage of social housing and the state of public transport and hospitals. Casinos create jobs with long, unsociable hours, and clog the city with tourist buses. Critics have been particularly vocal about the government’s response to Hato, in which ten people died and 200 were injured. Opposition parties hope that citizens will remember their anger at the ballot box on September 17th, when 150,000 locals will elect 14 members of the 33-seat Legislative Assembly. The rest of the legislators are picked by labour unions and other government-approved interest groups, or appointed by the territory’s chief executive, Fernando Chui. In 2013 the opposition won less than a quarter of the vote, and less than two-thirds of that went to candidates calling for greater democracy. At an equivalent election in 2016 in Hong Kong, pro-democracy candidates won more than half of the directly elected seats. Hong Kongers even picked six legislators who wanted to renegotiate the relationship with China. Do not expect such radical thoughts in Macau. (font: The Economist) (photo: macau)

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