(Xinhua/Nidal Eshtayeh)

Non-resident workers never held the right to hold protests – Police

The Public Security Police Force issued a statement today (Monday) in which it defends its position that non-resident workers were never covered by the Law on the Rights to Assemble and Protest while adding that it ‘fully respects’ if someone decides to use legal means to contest this interpretation.

A decision last week by police authorities to deny a request by a Myanmar non-resident worker to hold a protest against the recent military coup in the country has initiated a public debate over if non-residents are covered or not by the right to protest defined in the Law on the Rights to Assemble and Protest enforced in 1993.

Later questioned over this matter, Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak, indicated that the rights listed in the Basic Law are not absolutely equal between residents and non-residents, and that only residents enjoy the right to assemble and protest.

Article 43 of the Basic Law states that people residing in the Macau SAR, other than Macau residents shall, in accordance with the law, enjoy the rights and freedoms of Macau residents, which would in principle cover the rights of assembly and protest.

The Law on the Rights to Assemble and Protest states that residents can exercise these rights with legal experts having provided different interpretations over if non-resident workers enjoy this right.

In a lengthy statement issued today, the CPSP detailed the legal arguments for its recent decision.

The police department addressed the initial legislative intention defining ‘Macau residents’ in 1993, stating that at that time, a legislator of Portuguese nationality, understood that the Portuguese Republic Cosntitution safeguarded the right of assembly and demonstration of the “citizens” of Portugal, so he suggested that the right of assembly and demonstration in Macau it should be aimed at its “residents”.

“That suggestion was eventually adopted and approved at the plenary session. Therefore, the initial legislative intention of that law can be seen: this right applied to people who have acquired Macau resident status and not to all people who are in Macau,” the CPSP stated.

Police authorities also noted that the law has been amended three times since 1993 with no changes in the definition of Macau residents, and therefore the law only provides the right to assemble and demonstrate to Macau residents but does not regulate the guarantees of the rights of non-residents.

Recently Basic Law experts, Antonio Katchi, indicate din statements to TDM Radio, that at the time the law was being defined the legislative objective was just to find a word to replace the citizen, since Macau was not a state, which is why it used the resident rather than citizen, with a view to adapting to the circumstances of Macau.

However, the CPSP indicated defended that while “citizen” is a legal concept defined in the Portuguese Constitution, the term“Macau resident” also has an explicit legal meaning.

“Citizen refers to a person who has the nationality of a country and enjoys civil rights and assumes civic obligations under the legal provisions of that country […] As for the “resident of Macau definition before the return of Macau to the Motherland […] the resident identity card proves that the person concerned has the status of Macao resident. Obviously, non-resident workers and tourists, etc., do not have a Macauidentity card, so they are not Macao residents,” the CPSP noted.

For police authorities after the handover and as Macau became a SAR, under the Basic Law Macau residents have the status of a resident of Macao SAR that rights and assume resident obligations.

“Thus, analyzing from the initial legislative intention and the legal concept, whether before or after the return of Macau to the motherland, “residents of Macau” do not include non-residents,” the CPSP argued.

The CPSP also argued that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is only implemented in the Macau SAR through legislation.

The international covenant ratified by the Macau SAR commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

“The Basic Law of the Macau SAR clearly states that the International Covenant referred to above is implemented through legislation […] Hence, the aforementioned International Covenant cannot be applied automatically and directly in Macau, but will instead require, through local legislation, to be applied indirectly in Macau,” the department noted.