Protest and prayers on the 10th anniversary of Macau’s return to China
by Annie Lam
On 20 December, Macau’s bishop will call for prayers for the territory, a former Portuguese colony. The new Chief Executive Chui Sai-on will be sworn in before President Hu Jintao. On the same day, a civic group led by two Catholic legislators will launch a march for democracy and against corruption.

Macau (AsiaNews) – On December 20 Sunday, the 10th anniversary of reversion of Macau to China, Macau’s bishop has called for prayers for Macau at all Masses, while some Catholics will join a civic group that afternoon on a three-hour rally and march, demanding a clean government, greater democracy and an improved livelihood.

China’s top leader President Hu Jintao will attend the inauguration and installation of Macau’s new chief executive Chui Sai-on in Macau, and public security has been tightened henceforth.

Bishop Lai will represent the diocese to attend official functions that day. He has issued a notice to all parishes to encourage the faithful to pray for the territory. He has presided two Masses to celebrate the reversion anniversary in early December for the Portuguese Catholics and for the Catholic schools in Macau on Dec. 15, he told AsiaNews Dec. 17.

Catholic legislator Paul Chan Wai-chi, an official of New Democratic Macau Association that organizes the march, told AsiaNews that he estimated more than 2,000 people will join their rally and the subsequent march “to push the new government to reform for a clean administration and hasten the democracy process in Macau as local government provides no direction on how to attain greater democracy.”

Even though economy has improved since 1999, many still feel insecure about their jobs, he said.

Since 2007, the association organized a march on reversion day; there were 3,000 people in 2007, 1,000 in 2008 and probably 2,000 this year. “The marches were peaceful,” said the 52-year-old man, who also heads the Catholic weekly “Macau Observer".

“The number of march participants is not important, but the message of having public monitor of the local government is crucial,” he said. “The marches reflected a public assessment of government performances,” he noted.

The corruption case of former transport and works secretary Ao Man-long, who is now serving a 27-year sentence in Macau since 2008 on corruption and money laundering caused embarrassment and discontent toward the local government.

Both Chan and Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau pointed out that the law enforcement and the judiciary take a long time to handle legal matters.

Bishop Lai said corruption seems worse than the times under Portuguese rule. He hoped the new chief executive Chui’s government will be a clean one and will clamp down grafts to honour his promise of fighting corruptions during his election campaign.

A clean administration will inevitably affect civic life, including parishes, he said.

Bishop Lai said he would encourage local faithful to study Catholic social teaching among local Catholics, of whom some are politicians, to deepen understanding of social responsibilities.

Chan pointed out that social awareness among local Catholics is relatively weak, as most focused on sacramental and scriptural life, and now gradually more and more concern the society.

He said laity formation is essential to foster social awareness, and greater Church participation in social issues would enable the society to progress.

Before December 20, 1999, Macau was under Portuguese rule for centuries but recognised as Chinese territory.

Today, the territory (like Hong Kong) has special administrative region status with "a high degree of autonomy” that is guaranteed under China’s "one country, two systems”.

Macau’s Basic Law took force after reversion and is to remain in effect for 50 years, until 2049.

Macau has a population of 541,200. Catholics represent 4 per cent of the total. Unemployment stands at around 3.5 per cent.