Macau handover venue announced

The Macau handover ceremony will be staged at a 215,000-square-foot venue under an agreement reached by Beijing and Lisbon yesterday.

The structure will be erected on a site between the Macau Cultural Centre and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Design details and the exact cost of the structure have yet to be announced.

Agreement was reached 313 days before the handover and was announced by delegation chiefs to the Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group, Portuguese Ambassador Santana Carlos and Chinese Ambassador Han Zhaokang.

Mr Carlos said the Sino-Portuguese handover ceremony would be held on December 19 at the makeshift venue, which would have 'great dignity'.

Portugal will hold its own ceremony marking the handover at the Cultural Centre shortly before the joint ceremony.

After the joint ceremony, China will hold a special ceremony at a separate venue, to mark establishment of the Macau Special Administrative Region.

Mr Han said part of the makeshift structure would remain intact after the handover, as a memorial.

Spokesmen for the delegations said a special working group would discuss the technical and financial aspects of the venue.

Beijing reportedly objected to Lisbon's previous proposal to use the 1,100-seat main auditorium of the Cultural Centre as the venue for the joint ceremony because it thought it was too small.

Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio is scheduled to open the Cultural Centre during an official visit to Macau next month.

Macau reverts to Chinese sovereignty at midnight on December 19, after 442 years of Portuguese rule and will become an autonomous special administrative region.

President Jiang Zemin and Mr Sampaio are expected to preside at the ceremony.