quarta-feira, 15 de abril de 2009

Macau mais perto de Pequim...

Macau moves one step closer to Beijing (*)

Antoaneta Bezlova
Inter Press Service
April 14, 2009

China’s entrepreneurial south has always been Chinese leaders’ favourite spot for conducting experiments. Ever since markets advocate Deng Xiaoping launched experimental economic zones in the country’s south in 1992, paving the way for China’s emergence as an export powerhouse, the industrious Pearl River Delta has established itself as the epitome of daring in this nominally communist country.

This time around the experiment taking place on the fringes of the Pearl River Delta - in the gambling enclave of Macau – has political dimensions. Earlier this year the former Portuguese colony, which returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999, endorsed a controversial new security law that outlaws treason, secession and subversion against China’s central government.

"Macau is setting an example that other Chinese territories, including Taiwan, would be expected to follow," says Law Yuk-kai, director of the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor. "They had room to stick with international standards for much longer but they have abandoned it. It is the beginning of the end for the ‘one country, two systems’."

The ingenious formula of ‘one country, two systems’ - coined yet again by Deng Xiaoping - had allowed the former colonial territories of Macau and Hong Kong to run separate capitalist systems even after their return to communist China, guaranteeing their freedoms for 50 years.

But now Macau appears to have surrendered its rights and voluntarily accepted that Beijing will set the standards for what could constitute a threat to its national security. Among others, the newly passed bill punishes "preparatory acts" of the three crimes of treason, secession and subversion - providing for sentences of up to 30 years.

"The passage of the law is done on Beijing’s advice," charges Law. "They [Beijing] saw an opportunity to break the weakest ring in the chain and they took it."

In neighbouring Hong Kong, an attempt to introduce the national security legislation in 2003 created a storm of protests. The marches of up to 500,000 people on Hong Kong streets led not only to shelving of the legislation but also to the dismissal a year later of largely unpopular chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.

By contrast, Macau saw no significant protests. After four months of public deliberation, the only questions raised about the bill were by democratic legislators. The law was adopted with ease and came into effect on the day after its publication in the Official Gazette last month.

Macau’s almost universal support for the bill may have created shockwaves outside but it has come as no surprise to observers. A survey by the Macau General Union of Neighbouring Associations, completed last year, found that 92 percent of the territory’s respondents are in favour of the security bill.

"Unlike Hong Kong, Macau is not a very international city and people are not much concerned with events outside of the territory," says Au Kam-san, one of the two members of Macau’s 29-member Legislative Assembly to vote against the controversial bill.

"Macau people like to think of themselves as patriotic and tend to believe that any disobedience towards the central government in Beijing means a betrayal to their patriotism," he says.

Unsurprisingly then, the implications of the law’s endorsement for greater China were lost on many Macau residents. The same survey found that some 65 percent of the polled did not know the details of the bill. Introducing the legislation, Macau authorities had promised to strike a balance between protecting national security and safeguarding residents’ rights.

Ip Honglei, the owner of a quant antique shop on one of the cobbled streets in Macau’s old city, appears genuinely supportive of the legislation. "This is a law intended to preserve stability and we have all benefited from stability," he says. "Macau has prospered and this is all thanks to the central government in Beijing."

Asked if he is worried that the law may infringe on his personal rights to protest or speak freely, Ip said, "The law is not for ordinary people complaining about their salaries." He continued, "It is for all kinds of trouble- makers that may want to abuse Macau’s freedoms to stir trouble for the central government."

Pro-democracy legislator Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong says the smooth passage of the bill was ensured by the fact that the majority of Macau lawmakers harbour deep loyalties to Beijing. "In Macau, not only the leaders are pro- Beijing," he says. "The whole society is pro-Beijing."

The success of a pro-Beijing political camp in the territory dates back to a successful rebellion it led against the Portuguese administration in 1967. Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong believes the sway of Beijing forces in Macau contributed to the retreat of all pro-Taiwan political cliques and the weakening of the Catholic Church, which became largely apolitical.

As a result, attempts this time around by the church and some university students to organise more detailed discussions of the security law and voice opposition were quickly squashed by the authorities.

For a majority of the population questions of consequence have paled in comparison to the economic fortunes that Macau has enjoyed over the last ten years. With Beijing’s blessing, Macau chief executive Edmund Ho has managed to transform a once quiescent enclave into the glitzy gambling capital of Asia.


"Beijing’s control in Macau is absolute," says Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong. "There is no need for this law in order to ensure loyalty to Beijing. The law is intended as an example for Hong Kong. Macau would be used as a pilot case for enforcing the security legislation in other places."

Observers say Beijing’s failure to push through the legislation in Hong Kong owes also to its British colonial legacy. When Britain exited Hong Kong in 1997 it bequeathed the foundations of a sound legal system and vibrant civil society. People from the legal establishment in Hong Kong, together with NGO activists, were among the most vocal to question the provisions of the national security bill when it was introduced in 2003.

"Portugal’s exit from Macau was very different. Regulations were lax and there was no civil society to speak of," says Au Kam-san. "When the Portuguese left Macau, people were hoping for a change and saw that change [in] Beijing. In Hong Kong people feared change."

"In Hong Kong the genie has been out of the bottle for a long time," agrees Law Yuk-kai. "I fear though that all the things that we have rejected in the past, but Macau has now accepted, will come back to haunt us. This law does not bode well for us."

(*) Os negritos e a edição do texto (supressão de um parágrafo) são da minha responsabilidade.

1 comentário:

Clausewitz disse...

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