Macau (MNA) – Current affairs programme TDM Macau Forum on Sunday invited society representatives to discuss whether illegal accommodation should be criminalised, with many showing no support for the process.
The engineering and legal circles believe that criminalisation should be a last resort and instead, the responsibility of the owners and renters should be strengthened, especially with regards to the sub-leasing aspect of accommodations.
According to the speakers at the forum, the sub-tenants must be liable for the crime as well and bear the same punishment as the homeowners, along with having an increased penalty or fine if the crime is committed, in order to produce a higher deterrent effect.
But some residents criticise the lack of action on the part of the government as the illegal accommodation problem has existed for over 10 years, with the government merely negotiating how to solve the problem rather than actively finding a solution.
Ho Weng Hong, a council member of the Central District Community Service Consultative and who took part in the forum, states that if illegal accommodation is criminalised, the deterrent effect will be large, but there will be obstacles in its implementation and could perhaps make the whole process even slower, resulting in the ‘legalisation of illegal accommodation’.
Mr. Ho is suggesting the government increase the number of cheap hotels to better provide affordable accommodation and therefore reduce the desire for people to stay in illegal accommodation.
Meanwhile, Hui Long Tong of the People’s Vision Association, who supports criminalisation, points out that the current law prohibiting illegal accommodation has been implemented for eight years yet the situation has deteriorated rather than improved, largely due to the operators of such accommodation not be locals or renters, so authorities have no real possibility to catch these individuals.
Mr. Hui believes that if illegal accommodation is criminalised, police authorities will have a higher chance to catch the culprit as well as allow for a greater deterrent by making it a criminal offence with the possibility of jail time.
In 2018, the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) and the Public Security Police Force (CPSP) conducted 463 concerted actions against illegal accommodation services in the city by inspecting 1,379 apartments and sealing 245 apartments for allegedly operating as illegal accommodation.
On the sidelines of an event on Monday, MGTO head Helena de Senna Fernandes reiterated to reports that in order to better crack down on illegal accommodation, the penalty must be a strong deterrent.
The MGTO head pointed out that from over 1,000 illegal accommodation cases, only 200 have been punished so far, but not because there has been insufficient evidence, rather that the operators of such accommodations are from Mainland China and if they don’t want to pay a fine, they simply do not return to Macau.
Director Senna Fernandes also said that criminalisation could be a strong deterrent but stated that ‘both administrative and criminal penalties should be accompanied by evidence, including on-site evidence, tenancy signatories and subsequent evidence collection, to determine whether the operator or controller of the illegal accommodation is actually at fault.