20 + 20 = the most influential (9-12)

MB December Special Report | 20 + 20 = the most influential

Ho Iat Seng

The question at this point is what kind of leader Ho Iat Seng will be when, starting this month, he will lead the local government.

Until he announced his willingness to be a candidate (i.e., during the years he was in the Legislative Assembly, namely as president), Ho’s style came close to Fernando Chui’s: dull, discreet, without charisma.

But during the campaign, the future Chief appeared looser, more interventionist, smiling and more available. In this sense, he was much closer to Edmund Ho.

The question of Ho Iat Seng’s smiles, which Macau Business developed in October, is quite symbolic in this chapter.

From the point of view of substance, no ideas or affirmations are expected from the new head of government to appear out of step with the Beijing guidelines, but at the style level, what will Ho have?

Will Macao finally have a Chief Executive without fear of being scrutinized by the media?

Will the Legislative Assembly receive a leader without fear of being questioned by the deputies?

Will there ever be a Chief Executive who leaves the office and maintains close contact with the population?

As the third executive leader, Ho Iat Seng had to be on this list.

But it must be acknowledged that in the face of so many questions, we will have to wait to see if it is on its own merits, like Edmund Ho, or just because it cannot but be, like Fernando Chui Sai On.

Ieong Wan Chong

It may not be a household name and he may not even be of Chinese origin, but Ieong Wan Chong has been one of the most influential voices in these 20 years of MSAR.

And we say ‘has been’ just because Ieong left the leadership of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ Studies Research Centre in 2014, and because in recent years, as a result of his advanced age, he has been less publicly exposed. But last year he gave an interview to Macau Business, in which he argued that “Macau has become stronger and beautiful.”

This department of the Macau Polytechnic Institute houses the overwhelming majority of local pro-China academics and it is here that the thinking and scientific production that has helped local governments and politicians has been generated.

Despite being an academic in line with the Beijing guidelines, Ieong, one of the great local specialists in Basic Law, did not fail to point out some of their downsides in his many public interventions.

He was, for example, one of the first to warn of the advantages of having several candidates (or at least two) in the election for Chief Executive, or to defend journalists when the Electoral Affairs Commission forced a newspaper to withdraw an interview that had been published online.

Ieong Wan Chong was a member of the Basic Law Dissemination Commission and was the president of the Macau Economic Association. Among several books and dozens of research papers, he is one of the authors of ‘Macau: a model of mini-economy’ and ‘Aomen 1999’. He was also one of two editors of the ambitious ‘Macau Encyclopedia,’ first published in 1999.

Ieong Wan Cheong is not on this list only for his public interventions and academic production however. For almost 20 years he has been a kind of guru for many of the gravitating scholars of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ Studies Research Centre, of which he was the inspiring soul.

Jorge Menezes

Faced with the institutional alignment of the Macau Bar Association, Jorge Menezes has assumed the role of a countercurrent voice in defense of the essential principles set out in the Luso-Chinese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.

A Portuguese lawyer based in Macau since the end of Portuguese administration, this barrister’s sphere of influence has long passed to the expatriate community and anyone with a connection to Portugal.

In 2013, Menezes was attacked on a Macau street. The two executors were convicted six years later, but who was really behind the incident was never found.

The aggression did not silence the lawyer. On the contrary, it fueled him.

While accepting cases related to gambling activities (such as that opposed by Las Vegas Sands to its former partner Asian American Entertainment Corp., a company defended by Menezes), in early 2018 he showed up at the trial against Mr Sulu Sou and Scott Chiang, during which the deputy had trouble finding a legal representative (Menezes joined another local barrister, Pedro Leal).

In the same year, he took the challenge to the almighty president of the Bar Association, whom he accused of pressure, to prevent a rival bid. Since then, he has already targeted Neto Valente publicly more than once (interestingly, Valente’s was the first office Menezes worked for when he arrived in Macau).

The year 2018 seems to be a milestone in this lawyer’s rise to prominence, as he is now a kind of spokesman for pro-democratic ideas in Macau. After all, how many have the courage to say, as he recently said, that “Macau police and courts have been illegally repressing freedom of assembly and of freedom of expression”?

Menezes is a recurring presence in the local media, not just (although mainly) in the Portuguese language, and was one of the first voices to take a stand against any extradition agreement between Macau and Mainland China.

This year Menezes won a battle against the system, seeing the Chief Executive counteracting the decision of the director of the Media Office who had denied Macau Concealers access to GovInfo Hub, the government information portal. “This is great news for Macau, it was a step forward”, said the lawyer representing Macau Concealers.

José Pereira Coutinho

Pereira Coutinho is president of the Macau Civil Servants Association (ATFPM) since 1998 and deputy in the Legislative Assembly (2005).

Representing one of Macau’s two most important professions (along with casino workers) and being the only Member who can legitimately assume himself to be the spokesman for civil servants, gives him special importance. ATFPM is Macau’s largest civil servants’ advocacy organization.

In addition, Pereira Coutinho assumes a very different profile in the Assembly than most of his colleagues: he is combative, sometimes even radical (as when he left the plenary in the middle of the discussion on the Land Law) and has an agenda that goes far beyond direct interests of those it represents.

The deputy is a staunch supporter of the democratization of the political system and one of the most non-conformist and least pro-government voices. In the elections to choose the Chief Executive in 2009, Pereira Coutinho was the only one of the 300 members / electors of the Electoral Commission who did not vote, because the ballot did not provide for the vote against and he did not want to vote for Fernando Chui Sai-on…

The truth is that Pereira Coutinho’s high profile has a reverse: not infrequently his name is associated with initiatives, personal or political, that discredit him: in 2015 he ran for the Portuguese parliament without giving up his seat in Macau. He was not elected, but the subject generated much controversy.

We are probably faced with the most controversial Member of the Legislative Assembly, but there is something else that distinguishes him from all his colleagues: he is the only one of Portuguese nationality (his parents were from Goa, India).

In short: Pereira Coutinho is not only a voice many Macau civil servants listen to, but also a spokesman for those who advocate local universal suffrage. Others listen to him only to criticize him and call him demagogue and populist.