One man's meat is another man's poison, so the saying goes, and it was never better illustrated than in the attempts to enact national security legislation in Hong Kong and Macau. While the move sparked massive protests in Hong Kong in 2003, over in Macau it has been plain sailing during the past few weeks. People in the former Portuguese enclave vied to show their patriotism during the 40-day consultation period, which ended last Sunday, vowing support for the legislation based on Article 23 of Macau's Basic Law. The Macau government unveiled a draft security bill in October and is expected to table a refined version in the legislature early next year. Critics may dismiss as blind loyalty this embracing of legislation of the sort that Hongkongers found unacceptable. Or they may put it down to a lack of awareness about civil rights. But there is more to the Macau people's love for China than meets the eye. Their patriotism flows from a history of close ties with the mainland, even under Portuguese rule. Indeed, analysts say, to understand the different reaction in Macau you need to understand the former enclave's history. Macau historian Chan Su-weng said that in the locals' eyes, the place had always been part of China and never formally ceded to Portugal. 'Ever since the Qin dynasty [221-207 BC], the land of Macau has always been in China's boundary,' Mr Chan said. 'It was with a bestowing gesture that the Chinese emperor let the Portuguese run the land, on condition that they recognised his imperial power.' The Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Peking, signed in 1887, by which Portugal legally took over Macau, was ambiguously worded and even failed to fix a border for Macau. And the treaty forbade Portugal from transferring Macau to a third party. The Portuguese gained the right to 'perpetually stay in and manage' Macau, according to the treaty's Chinese version, while the English version featured the term 'perpetual occupation'. In contrast, the Treaty of Nanking - by which Hong Kong was ceded to Britain - spelled out that the island was 'to be possessed in perpetuity by Her Britannic Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors'. After settling in Macau in the 16th century, the Portuguese paid an annual rent of 500 to 600 taels of silver to the Chinese emperor for a few hundred years until 1849, when the Qing dynasty was going downhill. The introduction to Macau's consultation paper on the security bill is fired with patriotism, such as: 'Loving the country and Macau has been an excellent tradition of Macau residents ... After the handover, the spirit of this love has transformed itself into a driving force in building and developing the region.' Few locals would disagree with these words of loyalty. Over the centuries Macau's residents have held an allegiance to China's ruler, be it emperor or Communist Party leader. In today's labour protests, Macau workers often appeal to Beijing to solve their problems. It's not unusual to see banners at their rallies imploring 'the central government to please step in'. By comparison, few protesters in Hong Kong would try to invoke the power of Beijing. Some Macau residents did raise doubts about the security bill during consultative meetings, such as how to define theft of state secrets and what 'preparatory behaviour' of treason and sedition meant. But most expressed support for the legislation before suggesting modifications to the draft bill. Even the pro-democracy camp led by outspoken lawmakers Au Kam-san and Ng Kuok-cheong was quick to declare support for the need to have a national security law, before raising concerns over specific terms and clauses. Hong Kong's pro-democracy lawmakers and media appear much more worried about the legislation than people in Macau. The Hong Kong government's attempt to bring in the law, as well as other social problems, triggered a protest by half a million people on July 1, 2003. Many Hongkongers feared the law would restrict freedom of expression or be used to crack down on dissidents. The legislation was shelved indefinitely. Hong Kong and Macau have the same Article 23 in their Basic Law. Under these mini-constitutions, both cities must legislate against treason and subversion, based on the article, though no specific timetable has been given. Analysts say Macau's successful enactment would put pressure on Hong Kong to revive its security legislation. Surveys by various groups in Macau last month found between 60 per cent and 90 per cent of Macau residents supported the security legislation. The Macau General Union of Neighbourhood Associations interviewed 777 residents and found 92 per cent of respondents were in favour of the legislation. And 85.7 per cent of respondents believed there was no need to expand the 40-day consultation period. Legislator Ng Kuok-cheong asked the authorities, without success, to extend the consultation period, saying residents needed more time to discuss the draft bill. Interestingly, 65 per cent of those surveyed did not know the details of the draft bill. Mr Chan said Macau people's love for the nation also stemmed from their close contact with mainlanders even under Portuguese rule. The North District of the Macau Peninsula, which is next to Zhuhai , is the most crowded area of Macau whereas in Hong Kong, the New Territories area bordering Shenzhen served as a buffer zone for much of the 20th century and is sparsely populated. Even after the signing of the Treaty of Peking, Macau residents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries regarded Qing dynasty officials as their authentic rulers. Despite falling under Portuguese rule, many residents in Macau's Taipa and Coloane islands kept their land leases issued by Xiangshan county, where today's Zhuhai is located. They held on to the documents, known as 'rice paper contracts', without seeking proper papers approved by their colonial ruler. The rice paper contracts have been the source of many land disputes in which their legality has been questioned. Love and loyalty to the state is also evident when Macau netizens discuss the legislation in Macau's internet forums. Radical Hong Kong lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung staged a protest in Macau on November 23, claiming he was helping Macau's people fight a bad bill. But he was greeted with sarcasm - even insults - in Macau's cyberspace. Bloggers warned him against meddling in Macau's affairs, and laughed at the fact that only a few dozen people joined the protest. 'The Hong Kong lawmaker wasn't doing work for Hong Kong but came to make trouble in Macau,' one wrote. 'We don't need him to boss us around,' another said. 'Judging by the turnout for the anti-Article 23 protest, Macau people are clear-eyed,' a third said. Many of Macau's biggest social groups - the Federation of Trade Unions, the General Union of Neighbourhood Associations, and the Women's General Association - got behind the security bill, mobilising their big grass-roots networks to support it. These patriotic groups, known as the traditional leftist camp, have been operating in Macau for decades under the auspices of Beijing. They played a key role in the Communist Party's long fight against the Kuomintang for control of Macau last century. Political commentator Larry So Man-yum said the traditional leftist camp gained influence by leading locals in struggles against the Portuguese administration in the 1960s. And they have controlled much of Macau's educational resources in the past few decades, spreading mainland values, he said. 'Few locals were interested in going to Portuguese-language schools,' Mr So said. 'And most Chinese-language schools came under the influence of the leftist camp.' Mr Chan agreed that the Portuguese administration's lack of control over educational resources added to locals' loyalty to China. 'The Britons controlled educational resources in Hong Kong and managed to spread its colonial values with successful English-language education,' he said. English as a universal language was promoted in Hong Kong with relative ease, but Macau residents rejected Portuguese as lacking practical use, Mr Chan said. Before the 1999 handover, only those who wanted to become civil servants or lawyers found it necessary to study Portuguese. A 2006 census found only 3,036 residents, or 0.6 per cent of Macau's population, spoke Portuguese in daily life, compared with 7,290, or 1.5 per cent of the population who spoke English. And Chinese speakers accounted for 95.6 per cent of the population. The last years of Portuguese rule are remembered for high crime and a poor economy. A public outcry followed the revelation that the last governor, General Vasco Rocha Vieira, transferred a huge sum of public money into a private foundation in Lisbon days before the handover. In the lead-up to the handover, locals lived in fear amid street gunfights and casino-related murders. They believe it was the mainland soldiers entering Macau after the handover who restored order and security in the city. It appears that freedom of expression plays second fiddle to patriotism and national security in the locals' eyes. They seem to be willing to risk a bit of freedom to protect the state.