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.