segunda-feira, 16 de março de 2009

Editorial do South China Morning Post de hoje

Macau's border controls breed uncertainty
March 16, 2009

The visit to Macau by more than 30 pan-democrat lawmakers and activists from Hong Kong was an open challenge to the city's authorities. In recent months such people have frequently been barred from entering on unexplained security grounds. This has understandably caused concerns across the political spectrum. A similar rejection en masse yesterday would have aggravated the situation.

Thankfully, the Macau government largely avoided this by allowing all but a handful of the visitors to enter. Some who had previously been rejected were, this time, allowed in. It is clear that a more relaxed approach was adopted. The outcome was, however, far from ideal.

The issue has harmed Macau's image and done nothing for harmonious relations with Hong Kong. One result is that both the Hong Kong and central governments have taken up their concerns with Macau privately. Macau officials have cited the city's internal security law to justify refusing entry to lawmakers, activists and even academics. The same reason was given yesterday for denying entry to maverick League of Social Democrats lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, other league members and unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan. But this time the Macau government said it had a responsibility to deny entry to those who did not fulfil conditions for maintaining social stability and public order. In this case, however, the people accompanying those who were turned away were all there for the same reason - to protest against restrictions on freedom of movement and expression guaranteed under Macau's Basic Law. Those allowed in held a peaceful demonstration outside the office of Macau's chief executive - the kind of protest that is commonplace in Hong Kong, without posing a threat to social stability or public order.

There has been a tightening of immigration controls in Macau that has coincided with the recent passing of the national security law under Article 23 of the Basic Law.

Democrats who wanted to visit Macau to discuss the legislation were among those who have been turned away. The selective immigration treatment this time suggests the authorities are making decisions on a case-by-case basis.

That does not resolve the issue, however. Doubts remain about who, in future, will be allowed in and who will not. There are potential long-term repercussions. Even respected academics have been branded potential troublemakers by being denied entry. That is not good for Macau.

The Hong Kong government said yesterday it had approached the Macau authorities to seek a better understanding of the situation and express concern. It is good that our officials are taking up the matter. But it remains to be seen whether results will be achieved. It is hoped that common sense will prevail, and only those who genuinely pose a threat to Macau's security will, in future, be denied permission to enter. That would be in Macau's best interests and is needed to smooth its relations with Hong Kong.

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