MB December Special Report | 20 + 20 = the most influential
Chan Meng Kam
The most voted man in the history of MSAR (three seats in 2013 in one list) could not be left out of this list.
While it is true that after leaving his post in 2017, Chan Meng Kam became even more discreet, this list shows the most influential of the last 20 years. How could it not be?
Chan Meng Kam has left politics to pursue business and has been very active: he began with Casino Golden Dragon and two years ago he launched a new casino, Royal Dragon, also under the license of SJM. In the same year, Chan announced that he had signed a sale and purchase agreement to acquire another hotel and casino, Hotel Lan Kwai Fong (SJM again).
Does anyone doubt his influence in Macau? He opened the third-party casino despite the government’s 2008 Moratorium allegedly ruling out any such new satellite agreements being approved (the document does not expressly mention the issue of ‘third-party agreements’ but that was at least the spirit in which it arose).
For sure, no one knows what his plans are.
It is speculated that he would be a candidate for a seventh gambling license and there is no doubt that if the criterion were to award it to a Macau investor, he would be in the front line to get it.
But the political interests cannot be ruled out, such as the capital it owns and is no longer limited to the community of Fujian, where it moves best – he is still a Member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
This is why Chan Meng Kam’s words are heard very carefully. It’s one of those cases where the interest is proportionally inverse to the amount of things it says.
And while in Macau there are many people who turn up their noses at Chan Meng Kam’s path, his prestige crossed borders and in 2019 he received an unexpected unusual honorary doctorate from a Portuguese public university.
The University of Évora understood “to distinguish the statesman, businessman and philanthropist, Chan Meng Kam, who has dedicated his life to the public good of the city of Macau and its people, making a decisive contribution to the image, reputation and development of the MSAR.”
Edmund Ho would have to be on this list, which, we need to remind, is not based on the present, but tries to look back on 20 years of MSAR.
And it is necessary to divide these two decades into two completely different periods.
The first 10 years are marked by the official functions that Ho performed, and which have generally received popular support (via Public Opinion Program, the University of Hong Kong).
Since 2007 even, when the street protests began, further aggravated by the arrest of his Secretary Ao Man Long, condemned for corruption, Edmund Ho has always managed to show a reasonableness in his public stances, which deflated critics’ arguments.
In the last decade, however, his role has been completely different.
On the one hand, Ho was always careful not to intervene on Macau’s internal affairs, because he was less interested in obfuscating his dauphin and successor.
Little or nothing is known of the first Chief Executive since 2009, he may have even completely withdrawn from politics for all we know.
China has made him the deputy chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a top position (compatible with the duties he performed before, and a sign of Beijing’s appreciation), but of symbolic responsibility.
As one of the 24 figures of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Edmund Ho has been elevated to the status of statesman, so his public interventions are rare and made on behalf of the PRC: it is not the former Chief Executive who speaks, but someone who occupies a top position.
Here is the most recent example: in late September, Mr. Ho stated, in response to the impact of the anti-extradition bill protests in Hong Kong, that Macau needed to strengthen its patriotism, consolidate the foundations of its social policies and show the world the successful implementation of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle with local characteristics (remarks during a closed-door meeting hosted by the Central People’s Government Liaison Office in Macau, which released a statement on the meeting).
Fernando Chui Sai On
About a year ago we dedicated our monthly Special Report to a look at Fernando Chui Sai On’s mandate. The title we chose then says a lot about the communicative ability of the still Chief Executive: Sounds of Silence!
In fact, the first temptation would be to remove Fernando Chui Sai On from this list, such as the inability to influence local public opinion.
However, we are talking about someone who has a unique and unmatched resume in the coming years: 10 years as Secretary of Government and 10 years as Head of the same Government.
The inability to assert itself locally is not only the result of its absolute unavailability, for example, to accept interviews or at least to appear before the media to answer questions (without embarrassment on the part of journalists, it happened rarely).
Also, the absolute lack of charisma contributed significantly to this result: “Chui will be best remembered for nothing, and worst for being a caricature of what Macau politics had been for forty years,” said political commentator Éric Sautedé.
What has been Chui Sai On’s most decisive public intervention in the last 10 years? The answer seems obvious: August, 2017: Macau was severely hit by super typhoon Hato, causing ten deaths, the interruption of electrical energy to more than 250,000 users in the territory and disruption of telecommunications and water supply. For the first time, the Chief Executive requested authorisation from the central government to assist the Macau Garrison in relief efforts, and apologized to the public for his government’s poor handling of Hato.
A final note, which is somewhat speculative, but which each of our readers can judge for themselves: would Fernando Chui Sai On have been elected Chief Executive if the method of choice were the direct and universal suffrage of all Macau residents?
When Beijing has messages to broadcast to Macau, it essentially uses three channels: the Ou Mun newspaper, bilateral meetings and visits (in the MSAR or Mainland) or the Macau Liaison Office, especially through its director.
Of the three local agencies of the Central People’s Government (Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Liberation Army Macau Garrison, and Macau Liaison Office), the structure currently led by Fu Ziying is clearly the most important. And the most interventionist.
Mr. Fu does not spend his days in the office, he rather maintains an active presence in local organizations.
Despite unexpectedly arriving in Macau after the death of his predecessor, in less than a year Fu Ziying made a series of speeches that made the public discover his name.
As a representative of the Chinese power in Macau, the Liaison Office director oversees the strengthening of the first system.
Shortly after his appointment, he said for example that Macau could make a better use of the policies of the central government with a realistic and creative method, and could deepen its cooperation with the mainland to achieve win-win results.
More recently, Mr. Fu took advantage of a public session to call on the MSAR to defend patriotism and to stick to the unwavering ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, promoting the country’s development together, consolidating and raising Macau’s international status, but he also added that CPPCC members “need to dare to tell the truth” too, so that the leading body knows what is happening in Hong Kong and Macau (the director was expressing concern about the riots in the neighbouring region).
“The Liaison Office is prepared to hear the truth. I am confident that the Liaison Office will listen to the truth”, said Fu at the conference of the central committee of the CPPCC and the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the CPPCC.