POLITICS
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Occupy Central

China hails Macau's adherence to Basic Law in subtle warning against democracy movements

Neighbouring city of protest-hit Hong Kong is praised by top officials for its compliance, possibly to pre-empt copycat Occupy activities

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 December, 2014, 11:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 December, 2014, 10:57am

National and local officials in charge of Macau have praised the world's gambling capital for fully adhering to its Basic Law and the principle of "one country, two systems", in an apparently veiled warning against any activities modelled after the Occupy Central civil disobedience protests.

The latest comments came from Li Gang - Beijing's point man in Macau as its liaison office director - following similar remarks in the past week from Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, and Macau's Chief Executive Dr Fernando Chui Sai-on.

Just like the other two, Li Gang also urged Macau to rely less economically on its gaming industry.

All three spoke ahead of the former Portuguese enclave's 15th handover anniversary next week - and amid Hong Kong's political storm that is into its 10th week.

"Throughout the past 15 years, 'one country, two systems' and the Basic Law has been implemented comprehensively … in Macau," Li Gang, formerly deputy director of Beijing's liaison office in Hong Kong, told state media outlet Xinhua in an interview published yesterday.

One example was Macau's executive-led government, working hand in hand with the legislature. "The whole community adheres to, supports, learns and promotes the Basic Law," he said.

Li's words on Macau contrasted with Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's view of Occupy student protesters in Hong Kong, whom he said betrayed their lack of familiarity with the city's Basic Law in pressing for Beijing's withdrawal of conditions on the 2017 vote for Leung's successor.

Li said Macau was a place where "anyone who says the Basic Law is not good will be [as despised as] a rat on the street".

"People in Macau … thank the central government and thank the Basic Law."

Macau-based observer Larry So Man-yum saw Li's remarks as related to Occupy. "He has delivered a very clear message for Macau's youngsters, telling them not to do anything that departs from the Basic Law, like what is happening in Hong Kong."

Hong Kong-based China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said Beijing's intention was to tell Hongkongers which city it regarded as better at implementing "one country, two systems".

But Lau added: "Even so, it understands well that this system is not applicable to Hong Kong … The two cities have vastly different conditions."

Macau has experienced an unprecedentedly restless year that at its height saw thousands rally outside the legislature against Chui's proposal of criminal immunity for his position.

Chui scrapped the plan before a 400-strong panel re-elected him in August. Fledging democracy campaigners staged a "referendum" that found almost 90 per cent of locals did not trust him.

Li suggested that, to diversify the economy, a key solution was to foster cooperation with Hong Kong and Guangdong. "Developing a diverse economy is an important mission and a requirement the central government has for Macau," he said.

On Sunday, Chui said Macau's handover had been achieved "not only jurisprudentially, but also in terms of people's hearts". He pledged that the full execution of "one country, two systems" would be the core focus of his next five-year term, starting on Macau's handover anniversary, December 20.