Macau | US Congress concerned over Macau's autonomy and rule of law

The latest United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China report states that it has concerns over over Macau’s autonomy and rule of law mentioning the suspension of legislator Sulu Sou Ka Hou; the denial of entry to the city of political figures and writers; and several security related law amendments as examples of this perceived erosion

Macau (MNA) – The United States Congressional-Executive Commission on China 2018 Annual Report raised concerns over Macau’s autonomy and rule of law, citing the suspension of legislator Sulu Sou Ka Hou; the denial of entry to the city of political figures and writers; and several security related law amendments as examples.

The Commission report also considered that although Macau’s Basic Law does not provide for elections by universal suffrage, it ensured the applicability of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as recommended by the UN Human Rights Committee, with the report noting it did not observe progress in the city toward an electoral system based on universal and equal suffrage.

Created in October 2000, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China is a bipartisan commission mandated to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress.

The report included the suspension of pro-democracy Legislator Sulu Sou from his functions in 2017 for accusations of aggravated disobedience as concerning in regard to local rule of law.

Sulu Sou was later considered guilty of organizing an unlawful protest by the Court of First Appeal in May, 2018, and fined for MOP 40,800 (US $5,100), being later reinstated to his legislative functions.

‘This marked the first time that a legislator has been suspended from his duties since Macau’s 1999 handover from Portugal to China,’ the report noted.

The report also included limitations of access and travel to Macau for certain events and individuals, stating that in March 2018, the China Liaison Office in Macau reportedly warned organizers of Script Road – Macau Literary Festival that the government could not guarantee entry to several book authors, including a U.K. based writer and Mao Zedong biographer Jung Chang.

The case at the time led to the resignation of its programme director and co-founder, Hélder Beja.

The report also mentioned instances when Macau immigration authorities denied pro-democracy and centrist Hong Kong politicians entry to Macau this past year, citing concerns that they could ‘jeopardize the public security’ of the city.

‘In response to an inquiry about the denial of Hong Kong politician Casper Wong Chun-long from entry, a Macau official cited the prevention of ‘‘chaos’” for the city,’ the report states.

Other examples of this erosion of rule of law in the report included the draft law amending Macau’s Judicial Framework Law to bar foreign judges from hearing national security and defense cases finished in March this year.

‘Portuguese lawyers were alarmed by the proposal and feared that it may violate Macau’s Basic Law and further erode the independence of the city’s judiciary,’ the report indicated.

The new Cybersecurity Law proposed by local authorities also merited a mention, with the report stating cyber analysts have said that based on the low level of cyber attacks in Macau, the legislation is not warranted and raised concerns from cyber industries about the interpretation and impact of the law, despite the government responding that the draft law would not compromise freedom of expression.

In respect to Hong Kong, the report stated that the long-term viability of Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’; framework remained ‘tenuous’ given the ‘continued erosion’ of Hong Kong’s autonomy.

“In the continued quest to retain power, the Chinese government and Communist Party has sought to coercively control civil society, ethnic identity, and religious belief and to decimate the ranks of human rights lawyers, pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong and labor rights advocates in China,” U.S. Representative and Co-chair of the commission, Chris Smith, said when presenting the report to congress.