ANTÓNIO COTRIM/LUSA

Former Macau administrator criticizes “weak” local society, resulting from Portugal’s permissive relationship with China

The President of Oriente Foundation, Carlos Monjardino, believes that in Macau there will never be a situation similar to that of Hong Kong because the local society is “weak” as a result of a more permissive former Portuguese administration towards China.

In Macau “there are no sparks” and the civil societies of the two territories of the Pearl River Delta have nothing to do with each other: “one is very strong, the one in Hong Kong, and the other is weak, the one in Macau.”

For the president of the East Foundation and former number two of the Macao government in the 1980s, the difference has only one explanation: “The English and the Portuguese are completely different and everything that has been implemented in Macao clearly has to do with us and what was implemented in Hong Kong has to do with the English.“

Now, “the English have a completely different mindset than ours,” he said.

Therefore, “the society of Macau accepts some more impositions from Beijing,” and the Chinese “think Macau is a good student, as opposed to Hong Kong.”

For Carlos Monjardino, “The issue of the protests in Hong Kong began with a small spark,” in reference to a bill introduced in April that would allow the extradition of suspected criminals from Hong Kong to mainland China and which originated demonstrations and violent protests since June.

This “decision by the people of Hong Kong to be sent to trial in China was obviously nonsense,” Monjardino said.

And for the president of the Orient Foundation, the measure is part of “a process that the President of China has as one of the key goals in the mandate: reunification.”

“Only things can’t be done like that,” he said.

For Monjardino, the whole process “was very badly managed” by the authorities: “The poor Hong Kong lady tries to do the best she can, but she can’t because she’s not the one who decides, the one who decides is Beijing.”

For the Orient Foundation President, Carrie Lam, Hong Kong, “endured the first clash to the fullest, until Beijing realized it could no longer insist.”

In Macau, the extradition of citizens to stand trial in China happened “a long time ago,” he said.

“Already when I was in Macau […] there were people we had to send back to China, some illegal aliens,” he recalled.

The possible legal protection for citizens living in Macau not to be tried under the Mainland regime is “not specifically foreseen,” explained Carlos Monjardino.

Thus, “when there was a case of a serious crime committed in China and the person then came to take refuge in Hong Kong or Macau, China was right to request his extradition,” he said.

“The problem is that things that are serious are mixed with those that are not serious and there are cases that China wants to judge on the other side, although we have a completely different justice on this side,” he said.

Therefore, he says he was critical of “some Macau governments” precisely because of the “permissiveness with which they have always faced some of Beijing’s demands.”

While in Macau, he recalls the case of an individual whom Beijing asked to be handed over and tried in mainland China.

On the following day, the Macau government, still under Portuguese administration, learned that the individual had been summarily tried.

“We knew that night he was killed at the Gongbei Border,” he said.

But, he said, a Chinese citizen “is not treated in the same way” by China as a citizen who “has a Portuguese passport.”

“As most Macanese have a Portuguese passport, they have a natural protection. Now, the Chinese who are living in Macau do not,” he said.

According to critics and some analysts, the controversial Hong Kong bill could expose the population to unfair trials and violent treatment and give China greater influence over Hong Kong.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Monday she would listen, “with humility and seriousness” to society after the overwhelming victory of pro-democracy candidates in Sunday’s pro-Beijing camp elections.