Macau marchers put the blame on government

From smoking in casinos to high property prices, protesters put officials in the frame. But many residents opt for free music on the beach

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 3:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 3:39am

More than 1,000 Macau residents expressed anger at being crowded out by tourists, a lack of affordable homes and poor employment protection for casino workers in the city's annual Labour Day march.

The annual May 1 protest has taken on a similar meaning to Hong Kong's July 1 march: it gives disparate groups the chance to make their points to the people in charge. Yesterday's event involved a record 18 organisations with a variety of causes.

Meanwhile, the government organised a large-scale beachside concert at the southern tip of the former Portuguese enclave to coincide with the march. Metro Radio, who ran the event, said it was intended to "remind the public to keep beaches clean".

One key issue at the march was the influx of tourists, mostly from the mainland, who have brought the narrow streets of Macau's colonial core to a standstill. They want the government to impose controls. "The huge influx … pushes up property prices and rents," said Macau Youth Dynamics, one of the organisers.

"The Macau government is too inclined to tourism. Whenever there's a land sale it goes to hotels, casinos and private properties," said Cici Wong Hio-san, the group's chief supervisor.

Casino employees demanded their workplaces become smoke-free; under legislation introduced last year, casinos have designated no-smoking areas, but they make up only part of the gaming area.

"It's unreasonable to say that people would stop coming to Macau for gambling when they can't smoke when playing," said Kelvin Leong Kuok-cheong, of the Forefront of Macau Gaming union. "I've even seen a gambler who didn't go to the toilet for 10 hours."

Some demanded that Chief Executive Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on step down when his term expires later this year; Chui is widely expected to win a second term uncontested. Others demanded that Macau citizens be allowed to elect their next leader in 2019. Unlike Hong Kong's, Macau's Basic Law does not set universal suffrage as its eventual goal.

Marchers also raised concerns about media self-censorship and pro-government bias.

As marchers got hot under the collar, others enjoyed a sea breeze and music on Hac Sa beach, Coloane. The government denied accusations that the concert was intended to lure young people away from the march.

Despite that, several Hong Kong artists pulled out. Some had been put off by a row after pro-government groups in Hong Kong organised a concert to coincide with last year's July 1 march.

"I wasn't aware there would be a protest. I wouldn't have gone anyway," said one concertgoer, 17-year-old Kitty Wong, before screaming as Hong Kong band Super Gear took the stage.