segunda-feira, 23 de março de 2009

Macau ban as puzzling as it was irrational

Joseph Cheng (*)
South China Morning Post
March 23, 2009

The barring of visitors from Hong Kong by Macau continues to raise much concern. During the recent high-profile visit by pan-democratic legislators and activists, Lee Cheuk-yan and Leung Kwok-hung were still refused entry, despite an earlier exchange of views by the chief executives of the two special administrative regions.

When moderate legislators and academics like Frederick Fung Kin-kee and Johannes Chan Man-mun were denied entry, people were naturally surprised. Obviously, they had no plan to take part in any protest activities in Macau, and there was no record of their engaging in such acts before. This resulted in considerable damage to Macau's image as a tourist destination and, indirectly, to much speculation that had an adverse impact on the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in Beijing and the Hong Kong government.

Apparently, there has been no satisfactory explanation from Macau for its radical measures. Officials claimed they were merely following their internal security law; Macau's pro-democracy legislators, however, suggested the administration of Edmund Ho Hau-wah wanted to prevent Hong Kong radicals and trade unionists from "making trouble" ahead of Labour Day, May 1, and during the sensitive period covering the election of the next Macau chief executive.

Macau, however, is quite different from Hong Kong. During the critical stage of its Article 23 legislation process recently, Mr Leung and barrister lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah were still able to visit Macau and even joined protesters there. Those demonstrations were very small; certainly the Ho administration did not feel threatened. There were even pro-government rallies held after the law was passed. In contrast, when the Hong Kong visitors were refused entry recently, there were no scheduled protest activities.

There have been rowdy protests organised by the unemployed in Macau on Labour Day before. But these were about domestic, socio-economic issues. The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement is in no position to influence such activities. Refusal of entry to Hong Kong activists will not generate any deterrent. The Ho administration may also offer some concrete benefits and policy pledges to the unemployed before May 1.

The recent denials of entry of Hongkongers seems to have been endorsed by Beijing authorities. Perhaps the initial refusal of entry of Mr Fung and Professor Chan were isolated incidents, or even mistakes, on the part of immigration officials. But the strong responses in Hong Kong, the meeting of the two chief executives and the planned visit of the pro-democracy legislators must have alerted the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office. It is difficult to believe that the office had no position on this issue; harder still to imagine that top officials in Hong Kong and Macau did not consult it.

If there is no satisfactory explanation, it seems that all the Macau government did was "to pick up a stone only to drop it on its feet".

(*) Joseph Cheng Yu-shek is a professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong.

Sem comentários: