Macao, the agony of the democratic ideal against the power of money
The principles held by Sou Ka Hou, known as Sulu, are almost traced from those claimed by any of the Hong Kong activists. He also demands that the head of the government
- Protests: Another huge opposition demonstration in Hong Kong redoubled the challenge to Beijing
- Former British colony. An attempt at protest similar to that of Hong Kong is failing in Macau
The principles held by Sou Ka Hou, known as Sulu, are almost traced from those claimed by any of the Hong Kong activists. He also demands that the head of the local government of Macau be elected through universal suffrage and not under the designs of Beijing, and defends the values of democracy.
However, the young legislator admits that his ideology only represents a "minority" in this territory that in theory maintains a political autonomy similar to that of neighboring Hong Kong and is entitled to the system of "one country, two systems" that agreed Beijing with the colonial authorities at the end of the last century.
Sitting in the small office that he maintains in the old town of this town, not far from the alleys and churches that recall his Portuguese past, Sulu recognizes that even in the free and direct voting that was registered in 2017, the candidates who share their ideas -4 of 33 in the local parliament- "they only got 45,000 votes, while Beijing supporters got more than 100,000".
This Monday, when a group of activists tried to organize a call in the center of Macau in support of the demonstrations in Hong Kong, the event became what a newspaper in this metropolis called "The protest that never happened." The police identified the few thirty people who had gone to the central Senate Square - the historic heart of Macau - stopped 7 and ended the attempt in a matter of minutes.
" We are very weak, we cannot deny it. What happened on Monday disappoints me a lot. People have decided to surrender their freedom to the government and the police, " Sulu argues.
Aware of the inability to bend to a significant sector of the population of Hong Kong, Beijing has decided to bet on promoting the integration of the so-called Great Bay region and promoting cities like Macao or nearby Shenzhen as a "showcase" of its system , to the detriment of the former British colony.
Last Sunday, the Chinese authorities issued a directive in this regard that also stated that they planned to make Shenzhen "one of the world's leading cities in terms of economic strength and quality of development" by 2025. " A national model, "the text added.
Beijing's objective was supported by the financial results of Shenzhen, whose economy exceeded that of Hong Kong in 2018 for the first time in its history.
In the same sense, the number 3 of the Chinese power, Zhang Dejiang, expressed its praise for Macao during a visit to the enclave in 2017, when he said that his population "does not waste energy and time in useless political disputes," in a clear Allusion to the Hong Kong public.
The election of the next head of the Macau government this Sunday confirms the enormous limitations of the supposed autonomy of the enclave. Only one candidate , Ho lat Seng, 62, who served since 2001 as a member of the Chinese parliament controlled by the Communist Party and only recently resigned from that position when Beijing promoted him as an aspirant to the local leadership.
Casinos and shopping centers, the economic axis
The surroundings of the aforementioned Senate Square, the church of Santo Domingo or the ruins of the cathedral of San Pablo - some of the most emblematic references of the Iberian past of Macao - are dominated as every day by the overwhelming presence of tourists from the Mainland China , representing 70 percent of the nearly 100,000 visitors that the town received daily last year, according to official statistics.
They are the same that combine visits to the multitude of casinos and shopping centers that constitute the central axis of the island's economy.
"As the expression says: never bite the hand that feeds you," argues political scientist William Lam in Hong Kong.
An aphorism that the natives of this place assume without complexes. For Louis Kuok, 26, who runs a restaurant not far from Senate Square, "the people of Hong Kong have to understand that all this violence is not good for business. Macao should be your example. Both Macao and Hong Kong they could not exist without the rest of China. "
The young man remembers that in addition to the bonanza from which this place benefits, the government has established a system of aid to the premises that translates into the annual delivery of 10,000 patacas (about 1,100 euros) in cash for each of the less of 640,000 locals. "The government can buy political loyalty thanks to the money generated by casinos," adds Sulu.
Jason Chao Teng-hei's attempt to emulate in August 2014 the democratic demands of the young people of Hong Kong, who at that time were about to start the Umbrella Revolution, ended as quickly as the concentration of last Monday. The police arrested him along with 4 other activists on the first day of the alternative referendum they had organized to ask the population if they wanted the election of the head of the local government to be carried out through universal suffrage and not under the directives of Beijing.
Harassed by his political convictions - justice accuses him of "inciting disobedience" - Jason has moved to live in London where he continues his activism without hiding the disenchantment generated by the reality of his hometown.
" The population of Macao is not attracted to democracy . In Macao there are demonstrations, but in support of Beijing. We have been taught that our only goal in life is to get a permanent job," he says in a telephone conversation.
"I am very pessimistic about the future of Macau," says Mavis, a 17-year-old girl who indicates that some of her ideological co-religionists have decided to travel to Hong Kong to participate there in protests because of the limited possibility of doing so in her hometown .
Macao, former Portuguese colony
But historians and activists agree that the economic factor is not the only one that explains the poor attachment of the population of Macao by democratic referents. The story was also decisive since, unlike Hong Kong, the revolt of the Maoist groups that suffered this city in 1966 forced Lisbon to give them effective control of the territory.
The most symbolic image of those days was the one left by the Portuguese governor, José Manuel de Sousa, when signing a letter in which he asked for "forgiveness" to the population of Chinese origin under a huge portrait of Mao Zedong.
"From that date and although Macao remained technically a Portuguese colony (returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999), Maoist associations began to control the entire society : schools, unions, businesses. That modeled the way of thinking of Macau and reinforced the favorable feeling for Beijing, far removed from that observed in Hong Kong, "says Eilo Yu Wing-Yat, an expert from the University of Social Sciences of Macao.
The professor, however, remembers that both history and economics are subject to continuous fluctuations. The same, a native of Hong Kong, recalls the 70s and 80s, when the Hong Kong people "only lived to work and had no interest in politics."
" The Maco system works because the economy is doing very well , but here we have many problems similar to those in Hong Kong. The price of housing has risen 20 times in the last 15 years and wages have only doubled. What will happen? if China goes into recession? My theory is that today's Hong Kong is tomorrow's Macao, "he concludes.
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