segunda-feira, 21 de dezembro de 2009

Explicações por dar

We must be told why Macau shut the door

South China Morning Post
December 21, 2009

Change is to be expected whenever a new government takes office. Macau's chief executive, Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on, did not disappoint at his inauguration yesterday, pledging policies centred on clean governance and transparency. Such words offer hope after scandals under the previous administration. But hope needs to be fed by action, and the barring of more journalists and political observers from the special administrative region is not an auspicious way to begin.

Two Hong Kong reporters, one on assignment to cover the ceremony, were denied entry by immigration officers on Saturday. They were told they posed a threat to public security - the same unfathomable reason a photographer from this newspaper was in February twice prevented from covering the trial of disgraced former secretary for transport and public works Ao Man-long. More than a dozen pro-democracy activists were also turned back on Saturday. Barring from Macau people anxious to test the openness and transparency Chui spoke of represents not change, but continuation of flawed ways.

The city's Basic Law guarantees freedom of the press and of movement. These are essential if Macau is to grow socially and politically. Chui's promises are hollow without them.

Macau has put much effort into policing the gambling industry to improve its sometimes seedy image. Ao's jailing for corruption illustrates the magnitude of the problem. Journalists have a role to play in bringing to light such issues, and in helping build confidence that the city is serious about tackling the spectre of corruption. Yet the barring of Hong Kong reporters and people eager for the growth of democratic government in China hardens perceptions that authorities have little time for rights and freedoms - all necessary for equitable, peaceful and orderly development.

Chui has promised to usher in a new era for Macau. The preventing of people who can help him bring that about from attending the inauguration of his government augurs poorly. He has to prove he means what he says. Publicly and clearly explaining why the journalists and activists were barred is a sound starting point.

Activistas de Hong Kong novamente barrados

Macau shuts door again as Hu hails security law
We were roughed up by security officers, HK activists say

Fanny W. Y. Fung and Fox Yi Hu in Macau and Ng Kang-chung
South China Morning Post
December 21, 2009

Three more Hong Kong activists were barred from Macau yesterday, where President Hu Jintao lauded the enactment of a controversial national security law and stressed the importance of harmony and stability.

Chui Pak-tai and Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said they had been roughed up by Macau security officers after arriving at the city's main ferry terminal in the morning and before being turned back to Hong Kong.

At the inauguration of the new Macau government yesterday, Hu said in a speech that the city's smooth passage of the security law, under Article 23 of the Basic Law, demonstrated strong commitment to protecting the national interest.

"The smooth completion of the legislation based on Article 23 of Macau's Basic Law early this year shows that the Macau government, the legislature and people of various sectors have a strong sense of responsibility to uphold national security and interest," he said at the Macau Dome.

Hu also praised Macau for its lack of political disputes. "United, people can move mountains," he said.

The president arrived in Macau on Saturday for a two-day trip to mark the 10th anniversary of the return to Chinese rule.

Yesterday, Hu took the unusual step in his speech of highlighting Hong Kong's role in the practising of the "one country two systems" policy. Some analysts said he was putting pressure on Hong Kong to follow Macau in enacting a national security law.

Hu delivered his speech as the three Hong Kong activists were denied entry, following two journalists and more than a dozen activists from the city who were turned away on Saturday.

Chui and Tsoi arrived at the ferry terminal with three other members from the alliance. They planned to petition the central government to release dissident Liu Xiaobo , who has been detained on the mainland since December last year for charges of inciting subversion.

After presenting their identity documents at the checkpoint, they were told they were not allowed to enter. They said they were detained for an hour. Chui said he was dragged, kicked and pushed to the ground.

"One officer kicked me in my private parts. ... I fell back six or seven feet away," he said. Tsoi, vice-chairman of the alliance, said: "After they attacked us, we requested to complain to their department. They just refused," he said.

The pair took a ferry back to Hong Kong. Their three companions, who were allowed to enter Macau, returned with them because they had planned to act together.

Youth Union chairman Kong Kwai-sang was also turned away by Macau, over security concerns. Kong, who was allowed to enter in October, yesterday planned to go to Macau for private meetings with lecturers from the University of Macau.

Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on, who was sworn in as Macau's new chief executive, said his government respected press freedom and that immigration officers had acted in accordance with the law.

A Hong Kong government spokesman said: "We respect the jurisdiction of other places in exercising immigration control in accordance with their rules and laws. We will not seek to interfere with the decisions of other immigration authorities in individual cases."

During the inauguration ceremony, which was attended by Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, Hu took two minutes of his 18-minute speech to stress the importance of the "one country two systems" policy to Hong Kong and Macau. He said that for the policy to advance, it would need the joint effort of the central government, Hong Kong and Macau.

In a speech in Hong Kong in 2007 to mark the 10th anniversary of the city's handover, the president did not mention Macau.

Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said: "[Hu's words] are a clear order to the Hong Kong government. That this [legislating for national security] is the standard by which good governance is measured."

Dr James Sung Lap-kung, a political scientist at City University, agreed that Hu's remarks showed Beijing had taken it to heart that Hong Kong had not passed Article 23 legislation.

"But Beijing is well aware of the political situation in Hong Kong. Hu knows well that if he presses Tsang to enact the national security law here, it is asking Tsang to commit political suicide."

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the government had no plans to go ahead with national security legislation. He said the Hong Kong government's priority was consultation on the electoral reform proposals.

Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying said he did not see Hu's remarks as criticism against Hong Kong, but added that the city should attach importance to what Hu said.

The drafting of a national security law in Hong Kong was shelved in 2003 after half a million people took to the streets in protest against the bill. Critics said it could be abused to curb civil rights and freedoms.

The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club said the action taken by Macau yesterday was ominous. It said barring the journalists was an attack on press freedom and could damage relations between Hong Kong and Macau.

It said such actions were particularly distressing in the wake of Macau's enactment of national security legislation.

About 1,000 Macau residents staged a protest against corruption, a lack of democracy, excessive labour importation and other social problems.

The protesters, led by democratic legislators Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong, Au Kam-san and Chan Wai-chi, marched from North district to the government headquarters in Nam Van yesterday afternoon.

RAEM, dez anos: a vergonha recordada

«(...) lembro-me do que senti quando foi noticiada a constituição da Fundação Jorge Álvares. Vergonha. Desconforto. Embaraço. Uma instituição criada à última hora, no maior segredo, com dinheiros de Macau, para dar emprego e meios financeiros ao último governador e seus antecessores, era mau demais para ser verdade, na perspectiva de quem cá tinha ficado. Mais tarde ainda veio explicar-se que Edmund Ho tinha dado o seu assentimento – e Belém também. Quanto a mim, isso nada mudou de substancial. Em todo o caso, no momento em que a notícia foi conhecida, esses dados não eram sequer conhecidos. Julgo que não terei sido o único na comunidade portuguesa a sentir vontade de desaparecer, especialmente quando o jornal Ou Mun publicou um cartoon com o ex-governador a bordo de uma aeronave, com dois sacos de dinheiro pelas mãos».

(in «Uma Promessa por cumprir», Ricardo Pinto, Ponto Final, 18 de Dezembro de 2009)

«(...) de uma forma geral, para os jornalistas portugueses as mudanças foram para melhor. O Governo de Lisboa "interferia muito com a imprensa, e foi um alívio libertarmo-nos de uma administração que se preocupava tanto com a sua imagem, para fazer esquecer os anos Melancia" e sair o melhor possível na fotografia dos últimos anos da presença portuguesa na China. Havia "pressões constantes, despedimentos", afirma. "O lema de Rocha Vieira era que quem não estava com ele não era bom patriota. Havia os bons e os maus portugueses." Era frequente Ricardo Pinto ser considerado um "mau" português».

(in «Macau - Vitórias e derrotas numa terra "obediente e leal"», Francisca Gorjão Henriques, Público, 20 de Dezembro de 2009)

Fogo-de-artifício nos dez anos da RAEM

Ontem à noite, Macau assistiu a um belo espectáculo de fogo-de-artifício, assinalando o décimo aniversário da transferência de soberania. Só foi pena que a bateria da minha máquina fotográfica tivesse acabado ao fim de uma dúzia de chapas...

sábado, 19 de dezembro de 2009

Dez anos de RAEM em síntese

10 years after handover, wheel of fortune has turned for Macau

Fox Yi Hu
South China Morning Post
December 19, 2009

Riding the coattails of the mainland economy, in a matter of 10 years Macau has changed from being a colonial backwater to the world's gambling capital.

Much of that transformation was driven by millions of cashed-up mainland punters swamping the former Portuguese enclave - the only pace in China where casinos are legal.

Debate on whether Macau has changed for better or worse is hotting up as the 10th anniversary of its handover to China nears.

It's easy to find locals savouring their fatter pay packets and admiring the city's glittering skyline, but there are grumbles loud and long about runaway housing prices, traffic jams and corruption.

Like other residents, Lao Kei-ngai, 60, makes much of Macau's breathtaking economic growth, but hates what he says is a backward political system that is a hotbed of graft.

"The economy and social welfare have improved a lot, but the government's thinking lags far behind," he said. "Grey areas exist under outdated laws and a backward political system, leading to a lot of corruption."

The numbers speak for themselves. The city's gross domestic product, constant at 2002 prices, almost tripled over the decade, from 45.8 billion patacas in 1999 to 133.8 billion patacas in the 12 months to the third quarter of this year.

A four-year streak of real GDP decline was snapped in 2000 - a year after the city reverted to Chinese rule. Per capita GDP at current prices increased from 110,637 patacas in 1999 to 315,825 patacas last year.

Professor Zeng Zhonglu, an economist and gaming analyst at Macau Polytechnic Institute, said the casino hub's growth was unprecedented. "Las Vegas and Atlantic City are no match for Macau when it comes to the speed and duration of growth."

Behind such growth was the mushrooming of casinos, built amid an influx of mainland punters following the liberalisation of the gaming market in 2002. The 2004 launch of Sands Macau, the first Las Vegas-style casino, effectively ended a four-decade monopoly by Stanley Ho Hung-sun, heralding a sea change.

Gaming tax revenue was only 4.8 billion patacas and made up just 48.4 per cent of public revenue in 1999, but this had jumped to 41.9 billion patacas last year, or 72.7 per cent of public revenue, according to the Macau Statistics and Census Service.

The gaming market's liberalisation alone would not have brought about the breakneck growth, which analysts said was more by accident than design.

To revive Hong Kong's economy after the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003, the central government relaxed travel curbs for millions of mainlanders. Macau, the other special administrative region, was also allowed to benefit from the Individual Visit Scheme, which allows mainlanders to visit the cities without joining a tour group.

The number of gaming tables ballooned from 424 at the end of 2003 to 4,610 in the third quarter this year, while the number of slot machines jumped from 814 to 14,175.

Over the same period, the number of casinos increased from 11 to 20.

Gross gaming revenue was only 23.5 billion patacas in 2002, but it rose to 109.8 billion patacas last year and 83.9 billion patacas in the first three quarters of this year. Zeng ascribes much of Macau's success to its unique status as China's only place where casinos are legal. "Demand for gambling is huge on the mainland. With a well-regulated gaming industry, Macau has a clear edge over foreign casinos near China's border."

Visitor arrivals, including tourists and non-resident workers, surged to 30.2 million last year from just 7.4 million in 1999. Mainlanders account for more than 50 per cent of arrivals.

The rapid expansion of the gaming industry put a squeeze on traditional sectors such as manufacturing, which struggled against rising costs and a labour shortage. Manufacturing contributed 9.4 per cent of GDP in 1999 but only 2.8 per cent last year.

This over-reliance on gambling alerted the central government, with state officials repeatedly calling for the city to diversify its economy.

Median monthly income nearly doubled over the 10 years, from 4,819 patacas in the fourth quarter of 1999 to 8,500 patacas in the third quarter of this year, but such an increase lags behind the threefold per capita GDP growth. The jobless rate dropped from 6.3 per cent in 1999 to 3.7 per cent in the third quarter this year.

Macau observer Dr Camoes Tam Chi-keung said economic progress over the past 10 years was greater than that over the 150 years to 1999.

"Besides air pollution, traffic jams and expensive houses, Macau people are finding their lives better in most aspects," Tam said.

Changes in the city's Gini coefficient - which gauges the gap between rich and poor - and life expectancy suggest an improvement in living standards. The Gini coefficient rose from 0.43 in 1999 to 0.48 in 2006 before dropping sharply to 0.37 last year. A lower reading suggests a smaller wealth gap.

Life expectancy increased from 77.9 in 1999 to 81.5 in 2006.

But Tam said there had been little change in the political system. "Political development really disappoints, with the electoral system stuck in the 1970s - unchanged for 30 years."

Only 12 out of 29 seats in the legislature are directly elected by residents. Seven seats are appointed by the chief executive and the other 10 are returned through functional constituencies.

In 2005, the number of directly elected seats increased from 10 to 12. The chief executive is elected by 300 privileged voters.

Rising living costs, especially flat prices, became a major source of public discontent and fuelled large protests in the past few years. The average price per square foot soared from about 500 patacas in 1999 to 2,500 patacas last year.

An influx of non-resident workers also angered locals, whose wages were dragged down by the availability of cheap mainland labour.

There were 75,944 non-resident workers in October this year, compared with 31,887 in January 2000.

Traffic jams are another source of public discontent. The number of licensed vehicles jumped 64.7 per cent, from 113,814 in January 2000 to 187,463 in October this year.

But the length of public roads grew only 13.7 per cent, from 270 kilometres to 307 kilometres.

Continuous reclamation saw the land area of Macau rising from 23.8 sq km in 1999 to 29.2 sq km last year.

The city's population increased from 430,000 at the end of 1999 to 541,200 in the third quarter this year.

After the handover, the mainland authorities cracked down hard on organised crime; as a result, the gun battles and turf wars rampant in the late 1990s quickly disappeared.

Still, casino-related petty crimes picked up after the liberalisation of the market, with criminal cases rising from 9,262 in 1999 to 13,864 last year.

A survey on, Macau's most popular internet forum, asks people whether they like the present government or the pre-handover Portuguese government.

Among 161 people who had voted by Tuesday, 62.7 per cent said they liked the Portuguese government, 2.5 per cent said they liked the present government and the rest said they were equally bad.

quarta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2009

Duas leis parecidas, uma diferença básica

Two similar sets of laws, one basic difference

Frank Ching (*)
South China Morning Post
December 15, 2009

Following Portugal's Carnation Revolution of 1974, the new socialist government in Lisbon offered to return Macau to China but the offer was turned down. China knew that, if it took back Macau, there would be alarm in Hong Kong. The fates of Macau and Hong Kong were, and still are, very closely connected. In the end, China did not take Macau back until after the handover of Hong Kong from Britain.

Both Hong Kong and Macau were provided with a Basic Law by the National People's Congress. These mini-constitutions are largely similar, but with some significant differences. Each, for example, contains an Article 23 obliging the local government to enact laws prohibiting treason, secession, sedition and subversion against the central government.

With the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Macau Special Administrative Region approaching on Sunday, a symposium was held in Beijing a week ago to mark the coming into effect of Macau's Basic Law.

Wu Bangguo, the NPC chairman, had words of praise for Macau that, to many, seemed like veiled criticism of Hong Kong. For one thing, he praised Macau's people because they "did not politicise conflicts and problems" and had properly handled relations between Macau and Beijing.

He also praised the patriotism of Macau's people and said they agreed that "Macau affairs are China's internal affairs" and they "resolutely oppose and resist interference by external forces". Furthermore, he said that the promulgation of Macau's state security law, in line with Article 23, had further strengthened local people's concept of nationhood.

He did not have to mention that Hong Kong has still not implemented Article 23 legislation after the fiasco in 2003, when half a million people marched to oppose the proposal.

No doubt, in Beijing's mind, many people in Hong Kong have not properly handled relations with the central government and so are not even allowed to travel to the mainland. They have also invited "interference by external forces" and politicised "conflicts and problems".

Of course, Chinese officials denied that the words were directed at Hong Kong. Li Gang, a deputy director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, rejected the idea that Wu's remarks were actually criticism of Hong Kong.

Nonetheless, many Hong Kong politicians - and, no doubt, government officials - are interpreting Wu's remarks as pressure on the former British colony to implement Article 23. If this does not happen in the remaining years of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's term, no doubt the next chief executive will see it as one of his primary missions.

There are other striking differences between the Macau Basic Law and that of Hong Kong. For one thing, while Hong Kong's legislature is technically fully elected, albeit in various ways, Macau's has appointed members. The Macau Basic Law, speaking of the legislature, says simply: "The majority of its members shall be elected."

Unlike the Hong Kong Basic Law, which says the ultimate goal is the election of both the chief executive and all legislators by universal suffrage, the Macau Basic Law is silent on that point. Since China had two more years to ponder the provisions in the Macau Basic Law, it seems likely that they more accurately reflect Beijing's preferences.

The British lobbied hard for an elected legislature to be put first in the Joint Declaration, and then implemented in the Basic Law. The Portuguese, it seems, did not consider it important. The result is that Macau's much tamer population, which can probably be counted on to return chief executives and legislators acceptable to Beijing, have been denied such a right. Ironically, Hong Kong's much more assertive population is demanding such a right, and Beijing clearly does not feel comfortable about granting it.

(*) Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator.

sábado, 12 de dezembro de 2009

RAEM, dez anos: palavras sóbrias de Louçã

A 14 de Dezembro de 1999, a Assembleia da República realizou uma sessão solene dedicada à transferência de administração de Macau. Por entre os habituais elogios de circunstância, destacaram-se as palavras sóbrias de Francisco Louçã.

Macau no Expresso

O jornalista do Expresso José Pedro Castanheira, autor do conhecido livro «Macau os Últimos Cem Dias do Império», encontra-se no território a cobrir o décimo aniversário da transferência de soberania. Nesse âmbito, tem estado a escrever um conjunto de crónicas para a edição online do semanário, que podem ser lidas (e comentadas) aqui. A seguir com interesse!

quinta-feira, 10 de dezembro de 2009

Tradição e modernidade

Apesar de ter já perdido a conta ao número de vezes que estive em Banguecoque, a mistura que ali se verifica entre tradição e modernidade nunca pára de me despertar a atenção. Lado a lado, encontram-se, com a maior das facilidades, os edifícios mais modernos e pequenos oratórios a céu aberto, onde a população continua a prestar culto às divindades por entre o barulho e a poluição do interminável trânsito.

Os contrastes arquitectónicos também ficam claros em imagens como esta abaixo, onde um santuário surge quase emparedado pela descomunal volumetria dos complexos Siam Paragon e Central World.

A imagem do monarca, símbolo e garante da unidade nacional, também é omnipresente, seja nas ruas da cidade ou até no interior dos centros comerciais. Sinceramente, dispensava era aquele vídeo a idolatrá-lo antes do início das sessões de cinema (a que temos que assistir de pé - e já houve turistas condenados a pena de prisão por não o fazerem). Cada coisa no seu lugar...

Para quem gosta da melhor seda tailandesa, é obrigatória uma visita ao armazém Jim Thompson, no início da Thanon Surawong (perto da famosa Phat Pong). Só não é muito bom para a carteira...

Natal em Banguecoque

Os principais centros comerciais de Banguecoque já estão engalanos para as festividades do Natal, procurando captar a atenção e a carteira de residentes e turistas. Aqui ficam alguns instantâneos que tive oportunidade de captar nos últimos dias.

A foto de cima e as duas abaixo não conseguem fazer justiça à árvore de Natal e demais decorações colocadas à entrada do Siam Paragon, na Siam Square. Como de costume, um exemplo de bom gosto.

Nas duas fotos abaixo, o popular MBK, junto à Siam Square. Esperava mais da decoração natalícia deste espaço. Lá dentro, mal se nota a quadra, até porque fervilha de movimento durante todo o ano...

Abaixo, duas fotos do Gaysorn, na esquina da Thanon (Avenida) Ratchadamri com a Thanon Phloen Chit, talvez o centro comercial mais selecto da capital tailandesa. A sua gigantesca árvore de Natal é sempre uma delícia para qualquer amante desta época.

A seguir, duas imagens da Thanon Ratchadamri e do exterior do Central World, em frente ao Gaysorn, com outra árvore de Natal gigante.

O Central World não faz as coisas por menos e apresenta mais uma árvore monumental no seu interior, sobrevoada por sinos com as cores de diversos países, incluindo Portugal (influência da qualificação para o Mundial de futebol?).

Finalmente, o Amarin, na Thalon Phloen Chi. Não cheguei a entrar, mas ainda apanhei os trenós com as renas à porta.

quarta-feira, 2 de dezembro de 2009

Um Mac na China profunda

Podia ser um anúncio dos MacBook da Apple na China, mas não é. Na verdade, estas fotos foram tiradas há poucos dias numa sala de aulas de uma aldeia algures na China profunda, onde uma pessoa amiga está a trabalhar em regime de voluntariado.

segunda-feira, 30 de novembro de 2009

Entrevista à Rádio Macau

O autor d'O Protesto foi o convidado do «Rádio Macau Entrevista» de sábado passado. A gravação do programa pode ser ouvida aqui (a imagem acima é do jornal Hoje Macau de hoje).

quarta-feira, 25 de novembro de 2009

O fim do Fórum Macau

Regressado a Macau após uma ausência de três semanas, é com pena que acabo de constatar que o vetusto Fórum Macau deixou de estar disponível online. Há muito que já não apresentava qualquer actividade, é certo, mas continuava a disponibilizar um importante acervo de documentos publicados na imprensa local e de Portugal nos meses que se seguiram ao handover do território.

Dada esta perda e considerando o rápido aproximar do décimo aniversário da criação da RAEM, tentarei colocar alguns desses documentos (e outros...) n'O Protesto, até para que a evocação da efeméride por certos responsáveis de outrora não constitua mais um exercício de branqueamento despudorado dos erros e abusos cometidos, como algumas declarações surgidas na imprensa de hoje parecem começar já a indiciar...

Nota: agradeço ao Bairro do Oriente a inclusão desta posta na sua selecção da semana.

domingo, 15 de novembro de 2009

Tirem-me de Hong Kong!

I'm a Hongkonger - get me out of here

Daniel Sin
South China Morning Post
November 15, 2009

Hong Kong, Iraq and Sri Lanka wouldn't appear to have much in common. Ethnic conflict, suicide bombings and rampant corruption are not the city's hallmarks.

But if an international poll is to be believed, the citizens of all three share the same desire to get the hell out and find somewhere more liveable. And the survey is comprehensive: US consultancy Gallup surveyed 260,000 adults in 135 countries.

Gallop compiled the results to produce a "potential net migration index", which shows the difference between the number of people who would like to leave a country - or, in the case of Hong Kong and some others, a city - and the number who would love to move there. A country's score is recorded as a percentage of its total adult population.

With a score of minus 15 per cent, Hong Kong ranks 65th, on a par with Mexico, Iraq and Sri Lanka. Since people can hardly be queuing to migrate to any of those countries for a new life, they owe their scores to the number of citizens rushing for the exits. And so it is with Hong Kong, if Gallup is right: a million more people, a seventh of the population, want to leave the city than move to it.

Perhaps more galling to Hong Kong boosters, Singapore topped the charts with a score of plus 260 per cent.

The second most attractive country was Saudi Arabia (perhaps explained by the fact polling in the Gulf states was confined to resident and expatriate Arabs), followed, less surprisingly, by New Zealand, Canada and Australia. Mainland China came in 41st, on minus five per cent.

Immigration consultant Benny Cheung Kai-hei said his firm handled more applications from Hongkongers wanting to migrate than from people wanting to come to the city.

He said many Hongkongers were on the lookout for a better environment for their children, as they found the city's welfare and education systems unfavourable. "It is also overpopulated, with heavy traffic congestion and serious air pollution," said Cheung, director of Goldmax International.

Immigration consultant Richard Aziz Butt said the government was not doing enough to attract expatriates to settle in Hong Kong.

Butt said the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme, which requires an entrant to invest HK$6.5 million in property or stocks, was not applicable to potential migrants who just wanted to come to set up a small business.

Many clients told him that people in Hong Kong "made too many complaints", he said. "They protest over very small matters - even lawmakers are quarrelling with each other - and racial discrimination is widespread."

Butt said many members of ethnic minorities were leaving the city; he says he has helped about 300 families move elsewhere in the past couple of years.

Eddie Kwan King-hung, of EK Immigration Consultant Ltd, is a bit more sceptical.

"The survey might have overlooked the fact there is a quota of 150 mainland Chinese who are allowed to move to Hong Kong [each day]," Kwan said.

He said the city was a popular destination for many mainland Chinese, who applied to become Hong Kong residents through the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme and the capital investment entrant scheme.

"Compare this to the number of Hong Kong people migrating overseas, which has dropped to less than 11,000 a year from the peak of 90,000 in the 1990s," Kwan said.

In Causeway Bay yesterday, born-and-bred Hongkonger Mr Pang said he had absolutely no intention of leaving the city because his lifestyle was better in Hong Kong, with its reasonable prices.

Besides, he said, he didn't have the money to move elsewhere, given that many countries required considerable wealth to achieve the same lifestyle as he enjoys now.

Robert Raufer, a visitor from the US, said if he were to move to Hong Kong, he would consider factors such as air quality, lifestyle and health issues.

"Hong Kong should do more about air pollution," he said.

Nota: no estudo da Gallup, Portugal ficou no 23.º lugar do índice de "aprazibilidade", a par da Malásia, Holanda e Itália. Nada mau...

sexta-feira, 13 de novembro de 2009

As prisões negras da China

Francisca Gorjão Henriques
12 de Novembro de 2009

Não são assassinos, não infringem a lei. No entanto, as autoridades não os querem na rua. Os peticionários chineses cumprem uma tradição milenar de sair das suas terras para procurar justiça em Pequim, ou noutras grandes cidades. O que encontram está mais perto do inferno, segundo a descrição de um relatório que hoje é publicado pela Human Rights Watch.

Chamam-lhe as “prisões negras”. Não são as tradicionais cadeias, com polícias à porta, mas geralmente, hotéis estatais, lares ou hospitais psiquiátricos. Sequestram as pessoas na rua, colocam-nas em carros, e fecham-nas durante dias ou meses. Uma vez detidas, são espancadas, violadas, ameaçadas, roubadas.

“Todos os dias, só me deixavam dormir três horas e acordavam-me a qualquer momento para que eu não pudesse fugir. Eu estava sempre com fome, mas não conseguia comida suficiente. A segunda vez que fui detido, por 37 dias, perdi 20 quilos”. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) fez esta entrevista a um antigo detido, mas como nos outros casos, deixou secreta a sua identificação. Nada garante que este ex-preso, como todos os outros, não volte a estar na mira dos guardas.

“Sabemos há algum tempo, pelo menos desde 2003, que a China tem uma história desonrosa de prisões à margem da lei”, comentou por telefone ao PÚBLICO a investigadora da HRW Sophie Richardson, a partir de Hong Kong.

É impossível saber quantos estão presos, porque oficialmente não foram detidos. Tudo se passa à margem do sistema judicial, tão à margem que as autoridades governamentais negam que essa realidade exista. “O Governo chinês repudiou publicamente um sistema que permitia à polícia deter migrantes sem qualquer base legal”, continua Sophie Richardson, mas sabe e fecha os olhos às “prisões negras”.

No relatório de 53 páginas, intitulado “Via para o Inferno”, a HRW explica que os detidos são peticionários, a maioria proveniente das zonas rurais, que vão para Pequim ou outras capitais de província à procura de resposta das autoridades aos abusos de que se sentem alvo – desde confiscação de terras, à corrupção governamental. Os responsáveis locais procuram com as “prisões negras” impedir que as suas queixas se façam ouvir, para que não tenham de responder às sanções burocráticas que são impostas quando existe um grande número de petições.

“A grande maioria dos detidos são peticionários, mas também não excluímos a hipótese de que possa haver pessoas que não agradam ao Governo”, como dissidentes políticos, adianta Richardson. Da mesma forma, os casos estudados foram de pessoas presas durante dias ou meses, mas isso não quer dizer que alguns passem anos detidos nas “prisões negras”.

“Fizemos 40 entrevistas, todos tinham sido detidos sem que lhes dissessem quanto tempo iam estar presos, e todos sem saberem qual era a acusação. Alguns foram sequestrados na rua”, continua a investigadora.

“São desumanos”, relatou uma entrevistada da província de Jiangsu, que passou um mês presa. “Duas pessoas puxaram-me pelo cabelo e puseram-me num carro. Amarram-me as mãos e eu não conseguia mexer-me. Depois, puseram-me dentro de um quarto onde estavam duas mulheres que me despiram e me bateram na cabeça e deram pontapés”.

Há informações de que entre os detidos há menores de 18 anos, incluindo uma rapariga de 15 que foi raptada em Pequim, onde se preparava para apresentar uma petição por causa do pai, que fora fechado num lar da província de Gansu durante mais de dois meses, onde foi espancado.

“O Governo deveria tomar acções céleres para encerrar estas instalações, investigar os que as gerem e dar assistência aos que foram vítimas de abusos nelas”, lê-se no relatório.

quinta-feira, 12 de novembro de 2009

O exemplo de Macau...

Beijing official plays down 'jibe'

Ambrose Leung and Albert Wong
South China Morning Post
November 12, 2009

A top Beijing official in Hong Kong yesterday tried to play down comments by a colleague in the capital that were seen as criticising the lack of co-operation between Hong Kong's government and judiciary.

Li Gang, deputy director of the central government's liaison office, said Hong Kong should not try to learn from Macau if the majority of the public did not want it.

On Tuesday, Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, praised the Macau judiciary for co-operating with the Macau government and legislature, saying it was "constructive" for society, in contrast to Hong Kong.

Zhang, who was speaking in Beijing ahead of the 10th anniversary of Macau's handover in 1999, also praised Macau for "never blindly following others" and for its "resolve in opposing foreign interference".

When asked whether Zhang was hinting courts in Hong Kong should be more pro-government - concerns voiced by pan-democrats, who pointed out Hong Kong's tradition of judicial independence - Li said Zhang was only referring to Macau.

"He did not say Hong Kong should learn from Macau," Li said. "I believe if the vast majority of the public believe Hong Kong should learn from Macau's success it should be done. But if the majority do not like it, then it should not be done."

Last year, a similar row erupted when Vice-President Xi Jinping called for "mutual understanding and support" among the executive, the legislature and the judiciary in Hong Kong during a visit, resulting in questions about judicial independence. The Bar Association said judicial independence was a matter of fundamental importance to Hong Kong, and was protected by the Basic Law.

"The judiciary is not and should not be seen as a part of the governance team of Hong Kong," it said. "The judiciary plays the indispensable role of providing the necessary check and control over abuse, illegal or excessive use of executive and legislative power."

Civic Party legislator Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a former Bar Association chairman, said: "Macau is a very bad example. Not only should we not copy Macau, but we should be avoiding copying Macau as much as possible ... do you want to see your chief executive returned automatically without competition?"

Legal-sector lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, also from the Civic Party, said she was surprised by Zhang's "Opium War mentality" and paranoia about foreign forces interfering in local affairs.

sexta-feira, 6 de novembro de 2009

Macau na UPU

Como habitualmente, Macau fez-se representar nos trabalhos do Conselho de Administração da União Postal Universal (UPU), e reuniões paralelas, que estão a decorrer nesta altura em Berna, capital da Suíça. A delegação do território é encabeçada pelo director dos Correios de Macau, eng.º Roldão Lopes, e inclui ainda Gregory Sun e eu próprio (foto abaixo).

A principal aposta dos Correios de Macau nestas sessões continua a ser tentar impulsionar o desenvolvimento dos chamados Serviços Electrónicos Postais Seguros (SePS); concretamente, o EPCM e o PReM (na tradução portuguesa, Carimbo Postal Electrónico Certificado e Correio Electrónico Registado Postal).

Nesse sentido, fiz uma apresentação sobre possíveis alterações a diversas normas da Convenção e dos regulamentos da UPU no encontro do Grupo de Serviços Electrónicos do Comité de Padrões e Tecnologia do Conselho de Operações Postais da UPU, no seguimento de outra que já fizera na anterior reunião do mesmo grupo, em Maio passado.

Com o mesmo espírito, a delegação de Macau fez outras duas apresentações durante os trabalhos do Grupo de Utilizadores de Serviços Electrónicos Avançados da Cooperativa Telemática da UPU. A parte jurídica das apresentações esteve a meu cargo e a parte técnica a cargo do meu colega Gregory Sun, vice-coordenador deste grupo.

quarta-feira, 4 de novembro de 2009

Nova ofensiva contra os piratas de Macau

Leio no Ponto Final de ontem que a TV Cabo Macau desencadeou uma nova ofensiva contra os piratas (vulgo, anteneiros) que distribuem ilegalmente sinais de televisão nos lares e estabelecimentos comerciais do território: cansada da inércia das autoridades (nomeadamente, da DSRT), a concessionária foi para tribunal, interpondo uma providência cautelar contra três anteneiros. Para isso, contou com os depoimentos de representantes da ESPN/Star Sports e da Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia.

Embora tendo bastas razões de queixa contra a (fraca) qualidade do serviço disponibilizado pela TV Cabo, só lhe posso desejar as maiores felicidades nesta batalha judicial. É que o que se passa entre nós em matéria de pirataria televisiva é uma completa vergonha. Os anteneiros - que, em alguns casos, estão ligados a interesses na área da construção e gestão imobiliária - chegam a vedar o acesso dos técnicos da TV Cabo aos prédios, para que estes não consigam servir novos clientes. Ou, então, deixam-nos entrar e instalar os seus equipamentos, e depois cortam-lhes os cabos ou desligam a electricidade...

Como recorda a peça do Ponto Final, as autoridades locais pareceram ganhar coragem há alguns anos, anunciando que iam começar a exigir o licenciamento dos anteneiros e o cancelamento da distribuição de canais com equipamentos contrafeitos, que permitem descodificar os sinais televisivos fechados sem qualquer assinatura.

Os piratas reagiram com uma impensável posição de força contra a Administração: simplesmente, desligaram os equipamentos instalados em milhares de prédios do território, vedando o acesso dos seus residentes a todo e qualquer sinal televisivo, incluindo os dos canais abertos (como a TDM, a TVB e a ATV).

Alguém os processou então? A polícia interveio para repor a ordem (sim, aquilo era um caso de polícia, por razões que já esmiucei em outros momentos)? Não, nadinha! O Governo encolheu-se e a vergonha continuou...

Quem deve estar a rir-se de tudo isto é a Portugal Telecom: quando era a accionista maioritária da TV Cabo, deparou-se com a constante má vontade do regulador local, que via esta concessão com um dos últimos favores das autoridades portuguesas às suas cores antes da transferência de soberania (e não deixava de ter "alguma" razão...); mas, agora que a titularidade da concessionária mudou para mãos locais, os problemas de que a PT tantou se queixava mantêm-se e o novo proprietário da empresa está a ficar desesperado. Afinal, isto não era uma questão de a TV Cabo ser portuguesa ou não...

O problema, o verdadeiro problema, é a forma como a lei é encarada por muita gente em Macau, incluindo quem manda: só é para cumprir quando dá jeito ou não dá trabalho...

terça-feira, 3 de novembro de 2009

A concorrência (que virá) de Singapura

Singapore casinos to raise the stakes
Big-budget resorts bet on 'wow' factors such as theme parks to lure punters from Macau

Neil Gough, in Singapore
South China Morning Post
November 02, 2009

Macau may be Asia's Las Vegas, but Singapore is lifting the ante in a matter of months with the opening of two of the most expensive casino resorts in the world.

The final budget has not yet been set for Las Vegas Sands Corp's 2,500-room Marina Bay Sands, due to begin opening in phases from early next year. But at about US$6 billion, the latest cost estimates make it more than twice as expensive to build as the company's 3,000-room Venetian Macao and five times as much as rival Wynn Macau.

Trailing not far behind by project cost is the 59-hectare Resorts World theme park resort on Sentosa Island being built by Malaysia's Genting Group, the second half of the rising Singaporean duopoly.

Genting's resort will cost an estimated US$4.7 billion at current exchange rates - still almost double the cost of the Venetian Macao, the world's largest casino.

However, in addition to hefty project budgets, which are being financed largely by loans from Singaporean banks, a number of challenging regulatory and strategic questions remain over exactly how the city state's twin casinos will stack up against Macau and other destinations in competing for Asia's gambling dollars.

Both the city state's casino developers are betting big that "wow" factors such as a 200-metre-high "skypark" or a 24-ride Universal Studios theme park will lure punters, business travellers and holidaymakers from across Asia to their Singapore resorts.

"It's going to be a destination by itself," says Marina Bay Sands' executive vice-president of operations Ronen Nissenbaum. "People will come to Singapore to be at this site and say: 'I've been there, I've done that, I've got the T-shirt'."

The three 55-storey towers of Marina Bay Sands have already topped off and construction workers last week were busy installing a labyrinth of ventilation ducts. The resort plans to go from 350 staff to 10,000 as it opens in phases from early next year.

The roof of the towering project will feature a "skypark" that is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall and includes a huge swimming pool, viewing platform and a number of bars and restaurants.

Also on offer will be six celebrity chef restaurants, more than 300 retail shops including a "Louis Vuitton Island" accessed by underwater tunnel, a convention centre and two theatres that will open with Disney's Lion King stage musical as one of the resident shows.

The casino at the resort will span 15,000 square metres of gaming space over four floors, including two floors dedicated to VIP gaming. The property will employ 4,500 casino-focused staff, according to executives.

The hotel will feature just under 2,500 standard rooms and, for the ultra-big spenders, 230 suites that range from two to 10 rooms and cover 743 square metres. "Our rates are going to be the highest in the market," Nissenbaum said.

Genting's Sentosa project is set to open early next year with the Universal theme park and rides such as duelling roller coasters, a Jurassic Park-themed water ride and a Shrek-themed fantasy land. It will also launch with the casino, a theatre, restaurants and four of six hotels that will total 1,800 rooms.

"There will be gaming, definitely. But in terms of positioning, we see that we are going to be different from Macau," said Edward Koh Boon Wee, the Singapore Tourism Board's chief representative and regional director for Greater China. "Singapore has always been perceived as a very family-friendly destination and we want to continue with that image."

In terms of pure casino economics, Singapore should be extremely competitive in luring high rollers, which account for about 65 per cent of all casino winnings in Macau.

The effective tax rate on VIP gaming revenue in Singapore is 12 per cent, compared with 39 per cent in Macau. This means casinos in Singapore are free to pay out higher levels of rebates to high-stakes players, a common practice in the industry.

Likewise, casinos will be able to pay higher commissions to VIP junket agents, the marketing middlemen that in Macau and other Asian gaming jurisdictions function as bankers to high rollers.

Junkets bring high-stakes players to casinos, issue them credit for gambling and collect their debts - often through extrajudicial means in places such as China, where gaming debt is not enforceable through the courts.

However, many of the VIP junket agents that operate in Macau may not be licensable in Singapore because of "suitability" requirements, which are expected to be enforced stringently. While both casinos say they plan to open around the first quarter of next year, Singapore has yet to publish detailed regulations on junkets or to begin the licensing process.

"We have reasons to believe that very few, if any, junket reps, particularly of the Macau style, will be allowed or will want to be licensed in Singapore," Las Vegas Sands chairman and majority shareholder Sheldon Adelson said last week on an investors' conference call.

As a result, Marina Bay Sands plans to partially cut out the junket middlemen and will issue credit and rebates directly to players. "We are gearing up for very strong direct credit and direct play," Adelson said.

Perhaps more important will be the mass market, or non-high rollers: the businessmen, tourists, shoppers and local punters who are expected to fill hotel rooms, shopping centres and theme parks and account for most of non-credit casino play.

But Singaporean locals will face an entry fee of S$100 (HK$555) for a single visit to the casino. Problem gamblers will be able to voluntarily add themselves to a list of people excluded from entering the casinos, as in some Western jurisdictions (but not in Macau). But Singapore has taken this concept a step further - allowing concerned family members to add gamblers to the blacklist.

"There's no doubt that an entry fee is a certain barrier; the question is whether it is one that can be easily overcome or not," Nissenbaum said.

"You have to start from a pretence that Singapore did not decide to open these two resorts to make them unsuccessful."

Indeed, when it comes to luring mass-market tourists from the mainland and Hong Kong, Singapore hopes to compete against Macau by selectively targeting bigger spenders.

"Macau and Hong Kong attract more than a million mainland visitors every month and we only attract a million mainland visitors a year," said Koh of the tourism board, which oversaw the casino resort tendering process. "We are reaching out very carefully to the higher-yield markets of the mainland."

And what if Beijing chooses to restrict visas on mainlanders travelling to Singapore? The central government has done as much in regard to Macau since last year in an attempt to control runaway expansion of gambling among mainlanders.

"If the central government felt that there was a threat to [Macau's] gaming revenue or its position as a destination resort, they could change the visa programme for Singapore in 10 seconds," Wynn Resorts chairman Steve Wynn said last week on a conference call.

"Singapore can be very successful in its own right," said Wynn, who withdrew from bidding for a Singapore gaming licence in 2006 and last month listed his Macau business on the Hong Kong stock market. "But it being a threat to Macau is not a thing that we're worried about," he said.

sexta-feira, 30 de outubro de 2009

Arnie no seu melhor

29 de Outubro de 2009

Arnold Schwarzenegger, governador do estado da Califórnia, costuma anexar notas pessoais às suas decisões de veto de determinado projecto. Recentemente, num despacho enviado a um membro democrata da assembleia estatal que o tinha criticado no início deste mês, Schwarzenegger ocultou na sua mensagem - aparentemente normal - a expressão “fuck you”.

O destinatário da mensagem era Tom Ammiano, autor de um proposta de lei sobre o Porto de São Francisco, que no início do mês de Outubro criticou Schwarzenegger, tendo-lhe inclusivamente dito que “lhe beijasse o seu rabo gay” (kiss my gay ass).

Dias depois, a resposta de Schwarzenegger, apesar de mais críptica, foi sucinta: juntando as sete primeiras letras do corpo da mensagem que o governador endereçou a Ammiano rejeitando a sua proposta, forma-se, na vertical, a palavra “Fuck You”.

O porta-voz do governador, Aaron McLear, apressou-se a dizer que se tratou de uma “coincidência estranha” e que quando um gabinete emite tantos vetos por ano, é natural que isso aconteça. O porta-voz de Schwarzenegger chegou a adiantar que, no passado, já se formaram palavras como “sabonete”, “poeta” e “orelha”.

Porém, o jornal “Independent” deu-se ao trabalho de fazer as contas e chegou à conclusão que as hipóteses matemáticas de uma “coincidência” destas acontecer é de oito mil milhões para uma.

quarta-feira, 28 de outubro de 2009

Fraude com cartão de crédito em Macau

Businessman loses nearly HK$2.5m as bank refuses to stop fraudulent payment

Paggie Leung
South China Morning Post
October 27, 2009

A Hong Kong businessman who lost nearly HK$2.5 million because of a fraudulent transaction in Macau has complained that his bank on the mainland failed to stop the payment.

Marcus Wong Chi-ming yesterday said he received a mobile phone text message from the Bank of Communications' Shenzhen branch about an overseas transaction of more than 2.19 million yuan (HK$2.49 million) made with his China UnionPay debit card at 4.44am on October 14.

The 39-year-old trading company owner - who said he was in Hong Kong when the transaction was made - discovered the message when he woke up around 8am. He had only about HK$14,000 left in his account.

He immediately called and travelled to Shenzhen to request the bank stop the payment, but the bank asked him to contact police instead.

"Although at that time the bank had debited the amount from my debit card, it had not transferred the money to [the bank card network operator] China UnionPay yet," Wong said. "It should have frozen the transaction."

It usually took more than 24 hours for the bank to transfer the money to China UnionPay and then to the retailer for transactions made outside the mainland, he said.

He usually received a mobile phone text message within a minute after purchasing items with his debit card, he said. But after this incident, he questioned the purpose of the service because the bank would not stop a fraudulent transaction anyway.

He reported the case to Shenzhen police, and the bank told him the next day that the money had gone to a jewellery shop in Macau but that China UnionPay would only be able to provide more details, such us the name of the shop, in about 30 days.

It would take another 180 days or more for the card operator to investigate what went wrong.

"I was very shocked because apart from the fact that the purchase was made at 4.44am, it is very strange that the transaction was made in one go. It should be very difficult to transfer more than two million yuan away from the mainland," Wong said.

Police told him that he was not the only victim and there were other cases in which transactions were made to the US and Russia. Wong said he had a similar experience before, with a card issued by a Hong Kong bank, but the fraudulent transaction was terminated successfully.

Legislator Paul Tse Wai-chun, who is helping Wong get his money back, said he would contact the bank and Shenzhen police. He would also liaise with the mainland and local authorities to see if there was any loophole in the system.

"We want to bring to the public's notice that it seems impossible to stop a fraudulent transaction [when using cards issued by mainland banks]," Tse warned.

China UnionPay and Bank of Communications could not be reached for comment yesterday.

terça-feira, 27 de outubro de 2009