On May 29 Cui Shi’an (崔世安, Chui Sai On in Cantonese), the Chief Executive of Macau Special Administrative Region, announced his decision to scrap a controversial bill that would have allowed him to receive 70% of his salary until he found a new job and that would have granted him immunity from prosecution during his tenure. Furthermore, it would have granted high pensions to officials after leaving their posts. The bill had angered many Macau residents, who accused Cui of trying to “selfishly enrich himself” (私心自肥, literally “fatten himself“).
The bill proposal sparked an unprecedented wave of political protests among the population. Activist groups organised a demonstration in front of the Legislative Assembly, and around 20,000 people took part in the rally on May 26. This was the biggest popular movement since Macau was handed over to the PRC in 1999.
Members of Macau Conscience (澳門良心), one of the major activist organisations involved in the demonstration, wrote on the group’s Facebook page: “May 29 2014 was a great victory for the people of Macau!”. Because of the date of the first rally the movement has been dubbed “525 Movement”.
Wang Dan (王丹), an activist who took part in the Tiananmen student protests of 1989 and who is currently teaching history at National Tsinghua University in Taiwan, stated that Su Jiahao (蘇嘉豪), one of the leaders of Macau Conscience, was one of his students. According to Apple Daily, Su studied political sciences at National Taiwan University, and his current political activities were inspired by his experience with social movements and democracy in Taiwan. Taiwanese media have already drawn a comparision between Macau’s 525 Movement and the Sunflower Student Movement, while Su Jiahao is considered the Macau version of Lin Feifan.
In recent years, Hong Kong and Taiwan have seen the growth of social movements that demand more transparency and democracy. In Hong Kong, the Occupy Central movement has already sparked heated debates between pro-Beijing and pro-democracy groups. Macau, which has been rather quiet on the political front after the handover in 1999, seems to have joined the club of the discontent. Wang Dan goes so far as to say that Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau should work together against the common enemy, the Chinese Communist Party.
|Macau Legilsative Assembly|
In the case of Macau, however, the focus of the protests doesn’t seem to have been China itself, but the contradiction inherent to the SAR model. Both Macau and Hong Kong suffer from a lack of transparency and popular representation, and their respective governments are accountable more to Beijing than to the people they are supposed to represent. Macau, for instance, can be described as an oligarchy rather than a democracy.
According to the Basic Law of the Macau Special Administrative Region, the Chief Executive, the Legislative Council (or Assemby), and the Courts are the three branches of government. The Chief Executive is elected by an Election Committee made up of 300 members, 100 from the industrial, commercial and financial sectors, 80 from cultural and educational sectors and other professions, 80 from working classes and other sectors, 40 chosen from the Macau representatives in the National People’s Congress and in the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.
However, the members of the election committeed are themselves elected by a small group of people. This system is designed to make elections relatively marginal, if not altogether superfluous. In 2009, for example, there were exactly as many candidates as there were eligible seats. In 2009, Cui Shi’an, the current Chief Executive, received 95% of the vote, as there was no other candidate except for him (see Hao 2011, pp. 45-46).