Violent protesters staged such a rare spectacle in Macau last week that many tourists, and even journalists, wasted no time having themselves photographed against the turbulent backdrop. Some joked that it was a new tourist attraction for mainland travellers. Clashes broke out between police and demonstrators after 5,000 people took to the streets against the government's labour policies and alleged collusion with business. At least 27 people were injured in the largest protest since the 1999 handover to China. In a largely protest-free culture focused on harmony, elements in the Macau media were quick to condemn the demonstrators as 'troublemakers' disrupting social order. To their surprise, however, the 'troublemakers' enjoyed a good measure of public sympathy as locals felt that the workers had no better way of venting their pent-up frustration. The more than 50 consultative committees in Macau, with highly overlapping memberships, often turn a deaf ear to grass-roots grievances. Even though its economy had enjoyed breakneck development in the past few years, there were no safety valves for public discontent, according to political commentator Larry So Man-yum. 'Hong Kong has three levels of consultative committees. Such legitimate channels are deemed vital by many governments around the world,' he said. 'But unfortunately, it does not happen in Macau.' Legislator Jose Coutinho said the protest could have been prevented 'if the government had not been so insensitive to the many signals coming from the labourers over the months'. Distrust of the media was widespread among demonstrators, who accused journalists of being biased, although they appeared considerably friendlier towards the Hong Kong media. Disgruntled workers sometimes call the radio talk show Macau Forum, a decade-old programme serving as an important outlet for social discontent. But it has been plagued by censorship over the years. 'The show doesn't allow you to be outspoken. They cut off the line if you say anything sensitive,' said restaurant worker Sio Ion-cho. After losing confidence in the talk show, Mr Sio decided to try a newly launched public forum modelled on Hong Kong's City Forum. The Citizens' Forum, which kicked off on April 23, will be held once a month in different areas of Macau. Leaders of the relevant social sectors will be invited to discuss a certain public issue and take questions from citizens. Mr Sio remained sceptical of its usefulness. 'I am not placing a lot of hope on it. I am here only to let out my anger,' he said at the first meeting.