Chinese Army helping Macau relief operations in wake of Typhoon Hato is ‘warning for Hong Kong’
The help of People’s Liberation Army is allowed for disaster relief under cities’ mini-constitutions, but one commentator described a similar scene in Hong Kong as ‘unthinkable’ and that it would cause ‘public outcry’
Although Macau residents readily welcomed the help of the People’s Liberation Army in cleaning and relief operations after Wednesday’s devastating typhoon, the move is a cautionary warning to Hong Kong on being well-prepared for natural disasters, commentators said on Friday.
After Typhoon Hato, the worst storm in more than half a century to hit the former Portuguese enclave, left 10 dead, more than 200 people hurt and streets carpeted with rubbish, Macau people were happy to let the soldiers march in.
The help of the PLA is allowed for disaster relief, under the Basic Law of both Macau and Hong Kong, if the government of the Special Administrative Region in question requests it.
But Dr Chung Kim-wah, a political scientist at Polytechnic University, said: “If the same happened in Hong Kong, it would be unbelievable. A public outcry could be expected.
Hong Kong people’s mentality was that “under ‘one country two systems’, we should avoid the scene as much as we can for fear of encouraging Beijing’s interference.”
Chung said Hong Kong and Macau might have a similar “one country, two
systems” model in theory, but they were very different in their political culture. Macau residents, since colonial times accepted living under Beijing’s large shadow, he said.
A statement from the Macau government information bureau emphasised that the request was made by Fernando Chui Sai-on in accordance with the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, but commentators like Chung wondered if this could set a precedent for Hong Kong.
Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok also questioned the urgency for Macau to call for help from the PLA.
“It is not about paving roads and mending fallen bridges. The crucial point is no water and electricity, but that is not something the PLA can help with,” he said.
But he believed it was too early to say whether it would set a precedent for Hong Kong, as the city had never suffered such severe damage in a natural disaster.
“I just find it quite embarrassing. It means the Macau government is incapable of handling the governance, while some PLA soldiers look weak as they fell after a few hours of cleaning up,” Ma added.
Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu said the lesson for the Hong Kong government was to review the typhoon prevention and response procedures, to make sure it could handle any future natural disasters on its own.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin argued that only people prejudiced against mainland China would say seeking help from the Chinese army in disaster relief was a poor decision.
Meanwhile, a young activist in Macau, Sulu Sou Ka-hou, urged his home city to review and learn from Hong Kong Observatory’s weather signal system. He pointed out that Macau only issued the Typhoon Signal No 8 at 9am on Wednesday – almost four hours after Hong Kong.
“The signal lagged behind the actual situation and lost the function of serving as a warning,” he said.