Jake's View

Opinion: Macau is no example for Hong Kong to follow, Mr Zhang

While Macau has been one of the biggest accomplices in the laundering of corruption money from China, it got off lightly

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 6:18pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 May, 2017, 10:55pm

China’s No 3 official yesterday heaped praise on Macau for its patriotism, pragmatism and regard for national security, holding up the former Portuguese enclave as an example to Hong Kong on how to meet Beijing’s expectations.

SCMP, May 10

The message is as unchanging as the physical appearance of the messenger whenever someone big from Beijing deigns to pay Macau a visit – Macau good, Hong Kong bad. Hong Kong had better watch it. You hear that, Hong Kong?

The message is different from the common Shanghai-good-Hong Kong-bad variant in which we are chided for our backwardness in technology and education. In the Macau version we are chided for our politically deviant ways and unwillingness to listen to the word of Go... oops, I mean Beijing.

But let’s examine a little more closely just what a faithful servant Macau is to Beijing. As I understand the doings of the last few years, the top item on the Beijing’s national security priority list was, and still is, the anti-corruption drive.

Now, I am not trying to exonerate Hong Kong from its own share of guilt for laundering the proceeds of mainland corruption but surely the biggest and most blatant launderers in this part of the world are the Macau casinos.

State leader’s lavish praise of ‘patriotic’ Macau is not lost on Hong Kong

They paid the price for it when the anti-corruption campaign bit down hard on corrupt mainland civil servants. As the chart shows, casino takings dived over the space of two years from the equivalent of 300 billion yuan (US$43.4 billion) a year to only 180 billion yuan.

But while Macau had been one of the biggest accomplices in these crimes of undermining Beijing authority, it got off lightly. Its economy went into steep recession but no other penalty was imposed. Macau good, Hong Kong bad, you know. How can we bring the law down hard on good compatriots?

No, Beijing cannot do that, not to people who never openly challenge its authority although subverting it enormously in practice. Thus let the old game begin again.

You will notice from the chart that the casino takings are rising once more. Don’t tell me this is just a few innocent people having an innocent flutter.

Let the thunder roll, however, against bad compatriots. On his latest visit, Zhang Dejiang, said “lawmakers must stick to their oath ... insist on rational discussion and reject filibustering and resorting to violence”. Guess who that was aimed at. No prizes.

But now consider our record. Two elected lawmakers refused to take the oath of office properly and were expelled from the legislature. In the future any new legislator will think twice before trying that trick again. The law was upheld. What did Beijing think we should do? Shoot them?

China’s No 3 leader urges Macau to boost governance at critical stage for casino city’s economy

Likewise, we have firmly drawn the line for public behaviour at demonstrations and protest marches. Recent court cases have made it plain to everyone. Shout and scream all you want but you’re in deep trouble if the bricks fly.

Does Mr Zhang think there is a better way of maintaining public order while still allowing dissenting voices to be heard? Let’s hear what it is then. Must we adopt the mainland practice of jailing people for spoken dissent alone? Please say so, sir, if that’s what you mean.

And if you think Macau is such an example for Hong Kong, go for a walk around some of the poorer districts of Macau. The wealth and income disparity is hideous, far worse than in Hong Kong.

Macau is a place that has sold itself to foreign gambling tycoons for the gain only of those gambling tycoons and their corrupt customers across the border. Ordinary Macanese have benefited little. This is no example to offer us.