Special Report – “The Future is Feminist” * (16 – 20)

In December last year we published the list of the 20 most influential people in Macau.

And we realized that they were almost all men.

* “The Future is Feminist” is the name of a book edited by Mallory Farrugia (2019)

MB August 2020 Special Report | 20 (+20) influential women

Song Man Lei – The Pioneer

Song Man Lei may be one of the readers’ least known names here – and this is perfectly understandable. Despite being Macau’s highest-ranking female judge since 2012 when she was appointed to the SAR’s Court of Final Appeal (TUI), rarely in the nearly 10 years she has been on TUI, Song Man Lei has come to the fore.

With one exception, it was she who read the historic sentence in 2017, and for almost two hours, who sentenced former prosecutor Ho Chio Meng to 21 years in prison for several crimes, including aggravated fraud, aggravated money laundering and the criminal association.

Ho Chio Meng, who, interestingly, was her boss while he led the Prosecutions Office between 1999 and 2014. Ms Song worked under his orders as assistant general prosecutor until she left for TUI, becoming the first and only woman to serve in the SAR’s top court.

By the way, this judge has been used to being a pioneer.

Song Man Lei was the first woman delegate of the local prosecutor, and is also the most senior among the local magistrates. 

The judge, who was born in 1966, obtained a master’s and law degree at Beijing University, attended Portuguese language courses at the University of Coimbra and an introduction to Macau Law at the University of Macau, having completed training at the Center for Training of Macau Magistrates.

Since September 1996, she has started working as a prosecutor delegate in the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Macau. From March 2000 to December 2011, she served as Deputy Prosecutor.

As a TUI judge, Song Man Lei has twice been appointed chairman of the Chief Executive’s Electoral Affairs Commission, probably her most visible task.

In 2014 Ms Song was one of the two Macau judges hired for the first time as part-time teaching staff by the National College of Magistrates, a Chinese judge training institution established in 1997, thus becoming one of the Macau SAR’s two judges hired as teachers to teach in the legal field at an institution outside MSAR.

Song Pek Kei – The Protectionist

The 2013 elections continue, seven years later, to be remarkable for several reasons.

One of them was the fact that, for the first – and only – time a list elected three deputies.

Never before had a third-ranked candidate secured a seat in the local parliament and Song Pek Kei thus became the youngest one, when elected at 28 years of age (a record that Sulu Sou would break four years later, when he was elected at the age of 26).

Without Chan Meng Kam, the leader of the Fujian community, running in the 2017 elections, Song Pek Kei faced her litmus test by being top of the ticket and was duly elected again. 

In these past seven years in the Legislative Assembly, Song Pek Kei has stood out for being one of the most active voices against imported labour.

When the universal minimum wage of MOP32 per hour, equivalent to MOP6,656 per month, was approved, Ms Song accused the Government of benefiting non-resident workers at the expense of the standard of living of the local population. There were two votes against and one abstention, but Ms Song ended up voting in favour of the proposal presented by the Government. 

In another context, she said that non-resident workers “can be a detrimental element to Macau’s internal security” and that, in addition, “many do not do their jobs well.” 

The University of Macau law graduate has also been calling for an overhaul in the city’s housing polices in order to allow more families priced out of the market to have access to public housing.

(Xinhua/Cheong Kam Ka)

Shen Beili – The Diplomat 

Shen Beili is the only mainland official on this list; in fact, she has been based in Macau for only two years.

However, the Commissioner of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of China in Macau has become one of the city’s most influential voices.

In recent months, Shen Beili broke away from the more traditional, low-key style of her predecessors, and has been actively writing in the media through op-eds published in local newspapers, making the case for Beijing’s view on key issues such as the situation in Hong Kong and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Whether in interviews or in opinion articles, Shen, born in Shanghai in 1963, has stood out for a proactive and assertive approach.

This comes as a number of Chinese diplomats engaged in what some observers call “wolf warrior diplomacy”, a drive to tell the China story and fend off foreign hostility and harsh criticism, particularly from some Western countries.

“The Macau SAR Government has not only achieved the legislation of article 23 of the Basic Law, but also understands that in terms of national security there is only one country and there are not two systems”, stressed Shen Beili in a speech at the end of last year.

Last June, she published an article in Portuguese and English-language newspapers with the title: “Combating the common enemy of mankind through solidarity and cooperation,” in which the ‘Enemy’ is Covid-19, and she asserts that – against accusations heard in the West – “China’s action in this struggle not only reveals facts, truth and sincerity, it also provides inspiration to the world on how to deal with the growing global challenges that are closely related”.

Another topic that brought Shen to public opinion was the National Security Legislation for the Hong Kong SAR. “A fundamental guarantee for the long-term smooth implementation of “One Country, Two Systems,” she wrote.

Tina Ho – The Reference  

Would our readers allow us a speculative exercise? Let’s imagine that the Central Government decided that the next Chief Executive would be a woman. Most likely, the name would come from this list. And, analyzing the resume of the 20 women present here, it is most likely that Tina Ho would be the chosen one.

Regardless of whether or not this is her desire, her age (70) and also the fact that she is the elder sister of the current Chief Executive…

By Macau standards, Tina Ho Iat Teng brings together numerous features that make her our favourite for this imagined choice.

Still young, the eldest of five siblings went to work for her father’s companies, Ho Tin, known as ‘the first Macau industrial entrepreneur’; from plastics and electronics, to telecom products. She performed several functions within the company before reaching the top, and helped the business to grow its holdings.

In addition to being a well-seasoned businesswoman (she is also the vice-president of Industrial Association of Macau), she also has accumulated significant political experience.

She was deputy secretary general of the Preparatory Commission of the Macau Special Administrative Region, a two-term indirectly elected lawmaker (1999-2009), and vice chairperson of a CCPPC committee.

Finally, there’s the social aspect.

Whilst still young, she belonged to the Youth Commission of the Commercial Association, the first for young people in Macau (1970s). Numerous associations followed, such as the Macau Women’s General Association – of which she was president – the Obra das Mães (Mothers’ Association, where she still serves in the governing bodies) and the Macao Daily News (Ou Mun newspaper) Readers Charitable Association.

Tina Ho may never become Chief Executive, but she can say what few will be able to say in Macau: that she was the head of the current Chief, when Ho Iat Seng was Managing Director of Ho Tin Industries, and she was the CEO!

Wong Kit Cheng – The Caregiver 

Wong Kit Cheng first came to the limelight in Macau in 2013, when she was elected legislator.

Until then, Ms Wong divided her time between Kiang Wu Hospital, where she was a nurse, undergoing academic training (which led her to a master’s degree in Applied Psychology from Guangzhou South China Normal University) and tasks at the Macau Women’s General Association, to which she has been linked for several years now, and which she serves as vice-president.

The task in 2013 was not too difficult.

Ms Wong was second in a ticket that brought together several pro-establishment associations, starting with the ‘Kaifong’, led by incumbent lawmaker Ho Ion Sang.

As a legislator, and being a healthcare professional, she puts social problems at the forefront: drugs, prostitution, women’s rights, abuse, motherhood, and family policies, in addition to health related issues.

In 2017, the Progress Promotion Union list was split the Women’s Association ran on a standalone ticket headed by Wong who managed to get elected with about 9500 votes, but struggled a bit as she was the second last deputy to be get enough votes to be returned, trailing behind the Kai Fong-backed list which secured 12,300 ballots.

Wong, 39, has a task that is not easy to guess for 2021.

But more than a test of her capacities – she has avoided controversies and radical positions – it will be mainly a test of the Association’s mobilization capacity. It is probable that the votes of 2017 will not be enough to re-elect the nurse-assistant at Kiang Wu Hospital.

Ms Wong is the third woman on this list with links to the Macau Women’s General Association, along with Lam Un Mui and Tina Ho, which shows the weight, at least institutionally and historically, of this organization.

Special Report | 20 (+20) influential women > See here (11 – 15)