SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

The numerous protests unfolding in Hong Kong have resulted in a terrible loss of credibility for various authorities, and are the direct result of careless political decisions. Decisions that Carrie Lam’s Government thought it could make without listening carefully to the different sectors of society and weighing well the pros and cons of such opinions, suggestions and caveats. A big mistake. Hong Kong in these matters is not Macau, it does not accept acts of ‘want, can and command’ just because. 

From the Publisher’s Desk

By Paulo A. Azevedo | Founder and Publisher


The so-called Extradition Act is “dead” and possibly will only be revived in 2047 when the international commitment to maintaining the second system expires. Until then, as much as one may want to minimise the Joint Declaration, there is another system that has to be preserved. This is because it is a reliable guarantee for the various international communities that do not see themselves in the first system. As it happens, much of Hong Kong’s population think the same. Which is why the highly controversial Article 23 collapsed in the neighbouring SAR . . . although it passed almost without comment – as might be expected – in this self-subdued Macau. 

Demonstrations in Hong Kong were making headlines and opening the news of major international television networks, with live reports of clashes, some acts of violence and other dangerous episodes yet to be explained when in Portugal – a country that normally chooses not to be very outspoken – the Bar Association (Ordem dos Advogados) publicly denounced the agreement signed with Macau to surrender fugitives, saying it violates ‘fundamental and structuring principles of Portuguese Constitutional and Criminal Law’ by restricting ‘rights, freedoms and guarantees’. 

For the Bar Council’s General Council it is totally unacceptable that the agreement allows for the retroactive application of criminal law.  

‘The possibility of a fact that was not previously considered a crime but is at the time of the request to be able to substantiate a claim for surrender . . . [is a] . . . “violation of the Constitution and the principle of prohibiting the retroactive application of the criminal law,’ reads the statement. 

That is not all.  

Portuguese lawyers (in Portugal) know something of our history. There were times when wanted people were picked up in the city and simply handed over to police authorities on the other side of the Portas do Cerco border. It is no coincidence that they are suspicious that the agreement would allow people to be handed over to the Macau authorities just to be handed over later to the People’s Republic of China ‘without any guarantee of joint analysis of their [cases’] assumptions’. 

Speaking to TDM – one of the few local media he feels more comfortable in talking to, it seems – the eternal president of the Macau Bar Association undoubtedly found himself in a cleft stick: by going through the motions of shoring up the criticism of his Portuguese counterpart he gave the distinct impression of simultaneously performing an acrobatic feat in also apologising for the silence of the professional association over which he presides here. And the reason for the silence? Apparently, the Macau SAR Government has decided not to entertain conflicting opinions on the issue. Or to put it another way, it seems that the Macau Bar Association will only express an opinion on local matters once invited to do so. 

One can understand Jorge Neto Valente’s irresistible temptation to shake off any responsibility. But anyone who has lived here for some time knows this is a false question. Not only because we believe that the Association could have had access to the agreement document at any time but because it has already been officially published. We don’t recall any criticism by local professionals or those who lead them . . . 

If, however, the Macau Bar Association is truly against the deal, Neto Valente still has time to do something since the document has not yet entered into force in Portugal. 

We are therefore raptly tuned in to carefully following what the Macau Bar Association is going to do. 

If the Macau Bar Association is against the agreement to surrender fugitives between Macau and Portugal, there is still time to do something since the document has not yet entered into force in Portugal 


Political blunder 

The political situation in cities like Macau is worth what it is worth. Little. 

When most citizens seem not to care about what is happening in the city in which they live, it can only be said that they get what they deserve. 

There are other higher values, however, that should matter, especially to those who pilot the destiny of the MSAR. Whether one likes it or not it is of extreme importance to have the international community on one’s side. So as not to be isolated, so as not to affect investors’ confidence, and to be able to develop more international agreements and not be publicly criticised for not fulfilling social and political pacts signed in indelible ink. Quite the opposite, in fact: we have the means to be a light to be followed, a good example, a reference. 

We will not achieve this goal, however, when our main institutions are the first to demonstrate contempt for the values they should uphold. 

The Chief Executive accepting the uttering of the oath of the new President of the Legislative Assembly (local parliament) before only him in the cloistered corridors of Government Headquarters is more than an error of protocol. It reveals a lack of common sense that has often dogged the incumbent Administration, apparently shielded by multiple factors – Hong Kong being the central concern of the Central Government; having a large part of the population that is little identified with the city where they live; power residing in the hands of an elite who will do their utmost not to lose decision-making power in all instances and thus extend dominance in virtually all areas of the economic fabric. 

The new Legislative Assembly (AL) President – Kou Hoi In – should not have “forgotten” the name of Macau in the initial oath. Three times, according to the chronicles. While only remembering his devotion to Beijing. 

In addition, the uttering of this oath should have taken place in the AL. Not just because the oath law mandates the president repeat it ‘personally and publicly’. We all know that so many times here the interpretation of the law depends upon the power one has. With a lot of power you can find and follow gray areas; with no power, you do as you’re told. No, this oath should have been taken as mandated as a sign of respect to his colleagues in our mini-parliament. 

Legislative power in Macau already has so little credibility that such situations only serve to further minimise the role of MPs. 

The uttering of the new Legislative Assembly President oath should have taken place in the AL. Not just because the oath law mandates the president repeat it ‘personally and publicly’ – but as a sign of respect to his colleagues in our mini-parliament.