A transport barge travels past the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) as it stands under construction in Hong Kong, China, on Sunday, June 28, 2015. Hong Kong marks the 18th anniversary of its handover to China on July 1. Photographer: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg

MB Oct | New Chapter, Hopefully


It’s high time Macau reduced the distance that separates it from its neighbouring SAR. Time, indeed, to sever this invisible knot of second-class status, as if the city were merely a suburb of Hong Kong.

Although much older and never having been a foreign colony but always a Chinese territory, although under the administration of a foreign power resulting from trade agreements – contrary to Hong Kong, lost twice by China to the British during the Opium Wars – Macau still lives in the shadow of the Fragrant Harbour. No longer a financial shadow but a deeper one, akin to a cultural omnipresence.

This city is certainly smaller, has only a fraction of the population of the neighbouring SAR, and has a completely different economic and geostrategic positioning. But both regions complement each other in their specific uniqueness. And both serve well-designed purposes by the Chinese central government.

To reduce the distance between ourselves and Hong Kong we have to act more like Hong Kong, which, at first glance, may seem a paradox. That is, we must demand that whoever is here – whoever it may be – act as if Macau were their city and not a convenient place of passage. Political leaders, economic agents, legislators, academics, liberal professions, workers. All without exception.

If there is one thing I envy about Hong Kong it is the takeover of a different China. Not better, not worse. Different. As it must be, this is all the more so during the 50-year exception period under the aegis of ‘One country, two systems’.

This is why people talk more openly about issues and problems. In Hong Kong, even the representatives of the three agencies of the Central People’s Government talk to the press: the Liaison Office; the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the People’s Liberation Army.

Some days ago, when Zhang Xiaoming assumed the post of Director of the Hong Kong & Macao Affairs Office, in Beijing, one of his first actions was to talk to the press. We rarely see this but couldn’t agree more. Maybe Mr. Zhang did it because he wants to leave a different mark. Maybe it’s just in his nature or is the fact that he now understands the need of not letting people think too much, which happens when there’s too much secrecy and nobody talks.

Silence creates doubts. Doubts and questions. And questions may arise and be used as flags for different levels of controversy culminating in demonstrations. As he had the opportunity to witness during his tenure as Director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

Macau also has a new Director of its Liaison office. While we hope Mr. Zheng Xiaosong will help the city to continue to develop on the right path, we would like to expect an openness to the local press. After all, the Office has passed through some troubled times and a new chapter is surely more then welcome.