Thousands of people took to the streets of Macau yesterday to protest against a bill that would give a generous retirement package to the city's outgoing chief executive and top officials.
"It's the biggest march since the handover, which shows that people have had enough," said Sulu Sou Ka-hou, a member of the group Macau Conscience, which organised the march.
"How can a government submit a bill to the legislature without consulting its people?"
The group said more than 20,000 people marched from Tap Seac Square to Nam Van Lake Recreation Centre via the government headquarters in the afternoon. Macau police put the number at 7,000.
Sou appealed to marchers to encircle the legislature tomorrow afternoon in a bid to pressure lawmakers not to approve the bill - assuming the government does not withdraw it today. Last night, three lawmakers filed an application to the legislature's secretariat to delay the vetting
Protester Wilson Ma, a 28-year-old engineer, said: "If Fernando Chui Sai-on wants to be the chief executive for another term, I think he has to listen to what Macau people say."
In response to the rally, Macau government spokesman Tam Chon-weng said it "respected public opinion".
The bill proposes paying the outgoing chief executive 70 per cent of his 270,000 pataca monthly salary for as long as he is unemployed. Retiring principal officials hired from the private sector would receive 30 per cent of their remuneration, while those with a civil-service background would get 14 per cent.
In the first year - when they would be barred from taking jobs in the private sector - they would get an extra payment worth 70 per cent of their monthly salary.
Supporters of the bill say principal officials need to be better rewarded to compete with the private sector for talent.
Several hundred people - mainly elderly - joined a counter-rally yesterday afternoon organised by the Jiangmen Communal Society, which supports the bill.