Macau leader accused of ‘favouritism’ after 100m yuan university donation

Fernando Chui Sai-on, Macau’s chief executive, has come under fire after ‘donating’ 100m yuan in public money to a university where he is a key board member

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 May, 2016, 10:14pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 May, 2016, 10:14pm

Macau’s leader is facing deepening allegations of favouritism, after it was revealed that a semi-official foundation he oversees passed 100 million yuan (HK$120 million) of public money as a donation to a Guangzhou university, where he is a key board member.

Fernando Chui Sai-on, Macau’s chief executive, is facing growing protest calls from opponents who questioned why lawmakers and the public were kept in the dark as funds of this scale were funnelled out of the city, which is financially independent from the rest of China.

According to Jinan University, the recipient of what it called “a record-breaking sum of goodwill”, Chui recently pledged that the government would make the donation via the Macau Foundation.

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Chui is both the deputy head of the university’s board and chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees. His brother, Chui Sai-cheong, heads the foundation’s supervisory board.

“The huge sum of money was misappropriated under the table,” said Sulu Sou Ka-hou, of the pro-democracy New Macau Association. “Chui has to step down and cancel the payment.”

Defending the decision, a Macau government spokesman called it an act of “reciprocity” in return for the nation’s long-standing support to the SAR.

“It is in fact a duty to contribute to the nation’s development and education,” he said.

But the association was not satisfied with the reply, saying it would step up action if the government failed to explain further.

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It is not the first time Chui’s government has come under fire for its financial decisions. Last year, it vowed to give “part of” its financial reserves to the Guangdong government for investments with higher returns.

The foundation, meanwhile, said Jinan University, which is administered by the overseas Chinese affairs office under the State Council, is a “a public institution that [pursues] public interests”.

It stressed that the university was key to nurturing Macau’s talent, having enrolled nearly 20,000 Macau students. The university was not ranked by leading international assessors QS or Times. It is attractive to Hong Kong and Macau students whose grades are not good enough for local options, said a Macau lawmaker, who spoke anonymously.