A proposal by the Macau SAR Government based on ethnicity, is advocating that judges ruling on matters relating to national security issues should be ethnic Chinese men or women, or Chinese nationals, to use the official parlance.
Equating ethnicity to competency is a not a formula necessarily devised for success. But it does guarantee certain protections and controls within national precepts of security and the like. That said, competency does not come from genes.
It is not strange that countries worldwide reserve top official and administrative positions for their own nationals. There is no reason why this should be different in China.
But what is distinctive about the case put forward by the Macau government à propos the revision of the Judicial Organisational Law, is that Macau could not be likened to China when the matters in question relate to the law.
Under the existence of the second system, such types of proposals should not see the light of day. And yet they appear and will continue to do so from time to time, because there is an ongoing political battle in which the powers that be will not relent while Hong Kong and Taiwan remain restless.
So let’s take it as an exercise in national politics.
The Basic Law of Macau already defines positions that can only be held and performed by ethnic Chinese who were born in the city or have been permanent residents of Macau for a number of years (defined in the law). Accordingly, the Chief Executive, the top Prosecutor, members of the Executive Council, among a few others, ought to have Chinese blood and be Chinese nationals.
China devised the formula to guarantee that Macau would be ruled by its people, as the aphorism goes. But as history also shows, being Chinese does not mean you are more prepared or more righteous than others to perform tasks assigned here. The same goes for other ethnicities or nationalities in other localities around the world.
That said, nations and their homogenizing discourse are still what run politics and move crowds – although reality is more diverse, bursting with migrant movements, ethnic groups, and languages and cultures that do not easily fit the national ‘label.’
The modern world has become as diverse as its history, but the nation-state is determined to hold on to its conservative and shortsighted vision to protect nationals above all. When that jeopardizes the law and the efficiency of a system, it should not apply.
*Editor-in-Chief, Macau News Agency (MNA)