China Lauds Macau's Lack of Political Opposition on 20th Anniversary of Handover

xi-macau.jpg China's President Xi Jinping waves to school students before his departure from the international airport in Macau, which marked 20 years since the former Portuguese colony was returned to China, Dec. 20, 2019.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday gave a glimpse of his vision for Hong Kong's future as he visited Macau, a former colonial city that has proved more amenable to Beijing's world view than its neighbor.

Xi told a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of Macau's handover to the ruling Chinese Communist Party that Beijing would never allow "foreign forces" to interfere in Hong Kong or Macau.

While he made no direct reference to the six-month-old protest movement in Hong Kong, official Chinese media have repeatedly sought to characterize the movement as the work of hostile foreign forces.

"I must emphasize, since Hong Kong and Macau’s return to the motherland, dealing with these two Special Administrative Regions' affairs is entirely China's internal affairs and none of the business of foreign forces,” Xi said.

"We will not allow any external forces to interfere," said Xi, as he presided over the swearing-in of incoming Macau chief executive Ho Iat-seng and his administration.

Macau was handed by to China by Portugal on Dec. 20, 1999, and has been seen as a model by Beijing for its interpretation of the "one country, two systems" framework that was supposed to allow both cities to keep their existing legal systems and freedoms intact.

Xi praised Macau's "patriotism," saying it had made a success of the formula, from Beijing's point of view, because it recognized the supremacy of "one country" over "two systems."

But Hongkongers have been vocal about the erosion of their freedoms of speech, association and protest, as well as repeated interventions in the city's political scene and judicial system in recent years.

Hong Kong has yet to implement sedition and subversion laws as required by Beijing owing to widespread opposition in the city, where people are less inclined to give up their remaining freedoms.

Pro-democracy politician Wong Kin Long said the pro-democracy camp in the city is far less vocal about its aspirations, and is rarely described as a political force by the media.

"Very few people and organizations identify publicly with supporting democracy," Wong said. "Pro-democracy forces are pretty weak, both in the legislature, and through the rest of society."

Bill Chou, visiting professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said both cities had previously been regarded by many as uninterested in politics.

"People in both cities were pretty unmoved by politics and focused on making money and enjoying themselves," Chou said. "But now there is a high degree of politicization throughout Hong Kong, with a very high level of political awareness and participation among the younger generation."

"But things in Macau seem pretty much as they were a decade ago ... with very little grass-roots participation in politics," he said. "They have less opportunity to participate than people in Hong Kong do."

But the two cities share one thing: the ongoing suppression of political freedoms by the authorities, Chou said.

"Demonstrations are not as easy as before, especially those involving politically sensitive issues," he said. "We have seen during the past six months of protests in Hong Kong that the police will just arrest protesters whenever they feel like it, even if charges aren't brought after arrest."

In Hong Kong on Friday, dozens of office-workers turned out in a lunch-hour protest against the freezing of an HSBC bank account set up to fund legal defenses for arrested protesters.

Hong Kong police said on Thursday that they had frozen H.K.$70 million (U.S. $10 million) raised by Spark Alliance, a non-profit online platform formed in 2016 that collects donations to help pro democracy protesters, and arrested its four members for money laundering.

The alliance is one of two crowd-sourced funding initiatives that have collected millions of dollars in funding to aid and assist people arrested and being prosecuted for their part in the protest movement that has gripped Hong Kong since early June.

But police said that some of the money had been transferred to a shell company, and later used to buy insurance.

And Hong Kong's education secretary Kevin Yeung called on schools to suspend some 80 teachers arrested since the protest movement escalated in June, regardless of whether they are charged or found guilty.

Yeung said one government school teacher has already been suspended and is facing a disciplinary investigation for allegedly using inappropriate teaching materials, and said teachers should follow a "higher standard" of moral conduct both in and outside the classroom.

"Their misdeeds will directly affect their students, so we must take all feasible measures to protect students," Yeung said. "As an employer, the school is responsible for managing employees and monitoring their performance."

"If an individual teacher has been or is likely to be involved in serious criminal proceedings or serious misconduct, the school may order their suspension if appropriate under the relevant restrictions set out in the employment terms," he said.

"This is a professional and appropriate arrangement, and it is definitely not a kangaroo court."

He said 13 teachers have been censured so far over remarks made online.

Reported by Lu Xi and Wong Lok-to for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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