Fernando Chui Sai-on was groomed for a top political job in Macau

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 August, 2014, 4:49am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 July, 2018, 8:14pm

Dour and uncomfortable in the public glare, Fernando Chui Sai-on cuts a considerably less charismatic figure than Edmund Ho Hau-wah, his hard-nosed predecessor as Macau chief executive.

As political animals they may be poles apart, but their backgrounds meant their family paths were bound to cross - however briefly - in Macau's small yet complex world of business.

Companies registry documents show that in the 1990s the sitting chief executive's older brother, Chui Sai-cheong, formed three real estate and investment firms with Ho. While Ho divested himself of stakes in the companies when political office beckoned, recent filings show that Fernando Chui's brother remains a director and shareholder of one of them.

While Ho, the banker son of trusted Chinese government ally Ho Yin and Fernando Chui were carefully prepared to lead Macau, Chui Sai-cheong became a lawmaker representing the business community. "It's a career path," said businessman and lawmaker Chan Chak-Mo.

Political commentator Larry So Man-yum agreed: "Chui Sai-on was groomed" for a top political position. "His brother was too old, while his cousin too young."

After returning from his studies in the United States, Fernando Chui spent time as a lawmaker and school principal in the 1990s. He became secretary for social affairs and culture in Macau's first post-colonial administration in 1999.

As the SAR's first chief executive, Ho drove efforts to reposition the city's economy after the flight of manufacturing to Guangdong and spearhead the opening up the gaming industry. Fernando Chui was left to address the social issues a period of huge change had created.

"Perhaps Ho ran the government more like a company, and [Fernando] Chui like a welfare state," said lawmaker and businessman Chan Chak-mo.

Their public images mirror their diverging attitudes as leaders. Chui is described by allies and opponents alike as a man with a good heart, who, says lawmaker and Executive Council member Leonel Alves, "studies the problems and seeks to listen to the population's needs".

In the opinion of lawmaker José Pereira Coutinho, one of the most critical voices against the government, "there's no doubt that he is a good and simple person". The problem, he said, lies in Fernando Chui's ability to lead.

"He has been a weak leader, although we must understand that he inherited a team of secretaries which were not selected by him," Coutinho said.