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Typhoon Hato

Insulting or indispensable? PLA presence in Macau for Typhoon Hato clean-up welcomed by most, but not all

Lawmaker says local government should be ashamed of overly dramatic move, but many residents are just happy for the help

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 10:08am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 August, 2017, 8:53pm

As Macau reeled from the impact of two major storms, most residents of the former Portuguese colony welcomed the presence of the People’s Liberation Army for clean-up operations, but some questioned the need for military boots on the streets.

At the request of the Macau government, Chinese PLA troops of the local garrison had marched from their barracks to the streets of the gambling hub on Friday for the first time in history to help clean up in the aftermath of Typhoon Hato – the worst typhoon to hit Macau in more than 50 years.

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Some residents, however, have branded the sight as an embarrassment to the local government.

“It’s a shame for Macau to have PLA soldiers cleaning the streets. The fact that they needed to ask for help from [mainland] China showed that the local government had no capacity to handle the situation,” resident Catarina Terra said.

And pro-democracy Macau legislator Au Kam-san said he believed it was unnecessary to call on the garrison just to help clean up the streets, likening the move to “slaughtering a chicken with a meat cleaver”.

“Should an army be used this way? Soldiers may have a lot of experience in disaster zone response but less so in picking up trash and sawing trees, at least not a lot more than the [government’s] own frontline workers,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

“After 18 years, Macau should stop acting like a baby that won’t grow up, frequently asking for help. If even cleaning up rubbish requires the help of the PLA, what right does Macau have talking about its people governing themselves?”

His post stirred a heated debate in the comments section, with some in agreement and others who were critical.

One Facebook user said the government requested the show of force to stop people from criticising the local administration excessively.

Hong Kong journalists denied entry into storm-hit Macau

Others slammed Au for being “ungrateful” and for “talking more than helping”.

The Post spoke to several Macau residents who said they appreciated the help of the Chinese troops.

“I know PLA soldiers helped on some streets. I did not see them here, but we are very thankful to those who were in Macau and assisted. There have also been many volunteers on the streets.

“Those who help are good people,” said Pang Kong-Aong, a resident of Barra, one of the areas hardest hit by Hato.

Chao A-Soi, a shop owner at Inner Harbour, showed a bag of food given to him by the troops.

He said female soldiers were distributing boxes of food and water on his street on Friday.

“They were so kind and nice … And the men helped remove bulky things from the streets,” he added.

A spokesman for the Macau government said Chinese soldiers had joined efforts to clean up the debris, trash and uprooted trees in the Hac Sa Wan area at about 3.30pm on Sunday.

In 2016, a University of Hong Kong poll showed that Macau’s residents trusted the central government in Beijing slightly more than their local government.

Out of 520 respondents, about 49 per cent said they trusted the Macau administration, compared with 50.7 per cent who trusted Beijing.