Macau officials leave referendum homeless

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 5:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 12:55pm

Organisers of Macau's unofficial referendum on its chief executive election faced their first setback yesterday when the government refused to grant them a public space as a campaign base.

And the next blow could well be a rejection of their pending applications for five public areas in order to conduct the vote from August 24 to 30, said Open Macau Society president Jason Chao Teng-hei.

"The government has reacted this way because it is afraid of our unofficial referendum," he said. "We have heard speculation that the government is determined to crack down on our campaign."

They would appeal against the decision in court, he said.

The Open Macau Society is one of three organisations behind the poll which is aimed at gauging public demand for democracy and modelled after Occupy Central's ballot on electoral reform in Hong Kong last month.

Chao received a letter from the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau yesterday rejecting the application. Any "so-called referendums are destructive challenges to the country's constitution and the Basic Law", the letter said.

If the organisers win a court appeal, it would help secure government permission to set up the vote in five public areas, Chao said. The courts were required by law to handle an appeal within seven days, he added.

"Every time such appeals are launched at the courts, we are putting the rule of law to the test," he said. "I am not organising anything illegal. It's not like I am organising a campaign to spread a violent message."

If the appeal failed, Chao said it would be very difficult to find a private space for their campaign.

"We are not like Hong Kong, where there are so many spaces in universities and non-government organisations.

"I will be very surprised if such bodies in Macau are willing to let us use their premises," he said.