12/21/2009, 00.00
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Hu Jintao at Macau's tenth anniversary as people call for more democracy

by Annie Lam
The Chinese president extols the “harmony and stability” of the former Portuguese colony. He lays the first stone of the new campus of the University of Macau, which will be home to 10,000 students. Activists and lawmakers call for more democracy, slam the current government for its corruption and housing policy, as less affluent people can't afford high-priced flats.
Macau (AsiaNews) – Universal suffrage and housing were highlighted in the rally-and-march to the local government office, hours after the third chief executive was installed before Chinese President Hu Jintao to mark the 10th anniversary of Macau’s transfer from Portuguese to Chinese rule.

Hu, in his address, affirmed the achievements in Macau’s economy amid financial crises, and lauded the local government’s efforts in implementing the principle of “one country, two systems” as well as maintaining harmony and stability in Macau over the past decade.

Hu advised the local government “to nurture people with expertise in order that it can raise the competitiveness of Macau.” It is crucial to train up people in the fields of politics, professionals and technical aspects in the special administrative region, he said.

Newly sworn-in chief executive Chui Sai-on, 52, announced his five-year policy (2009-2014), which including diversifying Macau’s economy, formulating plans along with Pearl Delta development in southern China, monitoring closely the gaming industry in Macau, and developing logistics and cultures. Chui also promised to improve medical services, public housing and town planning.

The state president, in his visit Dec. 19-20, also reviewed the People’s Liberation Army stationed in Macau, and laid the foundation stone of the new campus of University of Macau right across a river on Hengqin Island in Zhuhai, which Macau has jurisdiction on the land, so as to accommodate 10,000 students and more hi-tech facilities.

On the other hand, a mass rally in a park Dec. 20, organized by the New Macau Society, a civic group, has urged the Chinese government to give greater democracy by having universal suffrage of electing the chief executive in 2019. Local people are dissatisfied with the “small circle election” at which only 300 electors could vote for the chief executive, Catholic legislator Ng Kuok-cheong, president of the group, told AsiaNews.

Paul Chan Wai-chi of the group, also Catholic legislator, told the rally that the government’s corruption, lack of courage to push forward democratic development has cause many social problems. “We want a real election by universal suffrage,” he said.

He also urged the government to fight against illegal workers so as to protect the employment right of local people, and to solve local people’s imminent housing needs.

Participants at the rally in the park also expressed anger against the high-priced residential properties resulted from government’s sale of lands to developers, who in turn sold the flats in prices that locals can hardly afford, and low-cost public housing is in shortage.

Saul, a 24-year-old Macau-born Protestant, told AsiaNews that he participated in the rally and march because he hoped to see universal suffrage of electing chief executive as it is essential in light of “the principle of equity.”

He said he would have expressed the same opinion to President Hu if he were given a chance to dialogue with him, who made a home visit to a government-arranged household in Macau.

Living in a so-called “casino city”, Saul, a high-school teacher, said he finds the situation improved as the gaming operators have provided more activities other than gambling, such as entertainment, children corners and shopping centers.

Anyhow, he said he was delighted to see the reversion of Macau, a former Portuguese colony, to Chinese rule in 1999, and hoped to see his place develop better.

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