Special Report – ‘The poster boy’

Why change a successful formula? Macau is hailed as the best example of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ concept.  

MB December 2020 Special Report | Ho Iat Seng – Year 1

Do you know the expression ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it’? 

It has already been noticed in this first year of office that Ho Iat Seng has no problem with cutting back and stating his own ideas. 

Regarding China, the Chief Executive not only has no reason to want changes, as he just needs to continue in the footsteps of his predecessors for Macau to remain the ‘poster child’ of the country’s reunification and the One Country, Two Systems policy. 

The speeches given by Xi Jinping during Ho Iat Seng’s inauguration a year ago  “indicate the way of the future development of the territory” and are “guiding and objective political instructions” for the V Government of Macau SAR, said Ho Iat Seng few days later. “President Xi Jinping praised in his speech that the Macau SAR Government and people from all sectors of Macau persist in combining the principles and requirements of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ with the reality of Macau, and that, endowed with a spirit both pioneering and creative, they made the application of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ a success.” 

Incidentally, the pandemic situation highlighted Macau’s dependence on the mainland Chinese market and showed that Macau should “utilize its institutional advantages underlying the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ framework and be well-prepared to participate in the construction of the Greater Bay Area,” Mr Ho also said last June. 

It was reported by a state-run media outlet in China that the Central Government was considering a move to create a specific crime of “organizing and soliciting by casinos abroad,” which means that mainland residents could be taken overseas to gamble. 

At this stage, it is not yet clear at this point whether Beijing’s announced efforts to criminalize promotion of gambling “overseas” will benefit or harm Macau. 

In a first comment, Ho Iat Seng said he believed China’s Central Government would continue to be “very supportive” of the city, but he declined to directly comment the question: once the topic was still “under discussion” at the country’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the CE didn’t want “to make a judgement.” 

Throughout this year, other indications came from China: after the approval of the Hong Kong National Security Law, Vice Premier Han Zheng expressed three expectations regarding Macau’s security services, namely, the firm implementation of the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle with the defence of the Constitution and the Basic Law, the need to “establish and improve the legislative system and enforcement mechanism related to the defence of national security”, adding that this matter will have to be addressed “firmly.” Han Zheng also recalled that Macau’s security forces must “provide full support to the Chief Executive in his governance under the law.” 

A few days later, Ho Iat Seng “demanded” the competent services to implement the “important instructions” given by Vice Premier Han. 

Ieong, Meng U 

“Even closer than before” 

“Pretty sure the connection with China will be even close than before.” 

Sonny Lo 

“Very good indeed, but”… 

“Very good indeed, but the challenge is how to capitalize on the advantages of mainland support to push the Macau economy further, to provide employment later, to channel proper talents internally to Greater Bay Area without the loss of local talents in Macau, to control the number of mainland visitors to Macau later after Covid-19 fading away so that Macau’s internal governing capacity can be improved and strengthened, to utilize Greater Bay Area’s tourists sites as a stimulus to open new tourists sites in Macau. There should be a more long term plan in Macau’s engagement and integration with the mainland, but again the overly pro-mainland mentality of some think tank members perhaps lack the creativity and determination as well as boldness to shape Macau’s new future by fully utilizing China’s advantages, especially in the Greater Bay Area.” 

José Alvarez 

“The objective is evidently to foster integration” 

“While this President seems to take a more centralized decision-making approach, it is clear the utter confidence he has on Ho Iat Seng – it would seem that he was handpicked. That translates into freedom given to Ho Iat Seng, provided, always, he keeps that decision-making aligned with the overall strategy of the Central Government, which principle Ho Iat Seng hasn’t been shy to affirm. Moreover, we will continue to see the progressive implementation of China like policies in Macau – just take the widespread installation of CCTV (something we use to see only when crossing over to Zhuhai). The objective is evidently to foster integration. All the while, the traditions and culture are and I believe will continue to be preserved – the biggest example, the use of Cantonese, the traditional Chinese writing or even the Portuguese based legal system. All and all, I believe China will continue to promote the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle applicable in Macau as an example of its feasibility and success.” 

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