Macau's leader Fernando Chui 'happy to let Beijing know public's views on democracy'

Activists say Fernando Chui has made no effort to introduce a road map to full democracy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2014, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 12:50pm

Macau's leader said yesterday he would be "happy" to let Beijing know what the city's residents think about democracy, as he launched his campaign for re-election as chief executive, an exercise all too likely to be a one-man race.

The promise drew criticism that Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on was merely paying lip service to increasingly disaffected and democratically minded young people.

Local democrats noted Chui made no attempt in his campaign platform, unveiled yesterday, to introduce a road map to full democracy.

Unlike Hong Kong's Basic Law, Macau's mini-constitution does not list universal suffrage as a goal.

If re-elected for a second five-year term, his focus would instead be on housing supply and administrative reforms, he said. He declined to say whether a cabinet reshuffle or the creation of new positions was on the cards.

Once there is a consensus, I am happy to reflect the views to the government
Fernando Chui Sai-on

Chui, 57, will stand for election on August 31. The poll will be decided by a 400-strong election committee that will represent Macau's 560,000 residents.

"Many countries and regions have different laws regarding democratic procedures. I will fully comply with Macau's Basic Law," Chui said.

"We are willing to listen … Once there is a consensus, I am happy to reflect the views to the central government."

Chui is widely seen as Beijing's man to continue governing Macau, and few politicians expect there will be another contender.

Despite his all-but-guaranteed victory, Chui admitted his first term had "insufficiencies", with political decisions that prompted tens of thousands to protest against the government in May.

Some 20,000 people took to the streets in an unprecedented March to oppose plans to grant serving chief executives immunity from criminal prosecution and to offer certain retiring officials handsome pensions. The plans were eventually scrapped.

Chui yesterday said he "fully understood" the protesters' demands.

"I respect all lawful and peaceful expression of opinion through rallies and protests," he said, adding that he believed the incident would not affect his re-election.

A democracy campaigner, Sulu Sou Ka-hou, doubted Chui would act on the demands of his people. "I don't think he knows what the public really want."

He described Chui's latest remarks on democracy as insincere. "He did not tell us about any road map on democracy."

Sou and fellow social activists in Macau are organising an unofficial referendum next month, similar to Occupy Central's June poll in Hong Kong, to gauge public demand for democracy.

The August 24-30 exercise is intended to put Chui's candidacy to the test should a challenger emerge in the meantime.

Locals will get to state their preference for the next leader, although Beijing has denounced the poll as illegal.

A pro-democracy lawmaker who led calls in May to scrap the controversial proposal for government perks said Macau was lagging behind in democratic progress. "The rift is widening as Hong Kong is having [a] one man, one vote [election] in 2017, but Macau still has no constitutional reform proposal even after the civil awakening in May," Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong said.