07/08/2014, 00.00
MACAU - CHINA
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Referendum on democracy also in Macau

The vote is set for the end of August, online and at polling stations. Although the constitution agreed by China and Portugal does not provide for democratic institutions, political consciousness is growing in the face of the government's economic manipulations.

Macau (AsiaNews/Agencies) - An unofficial referendum on universal suffrage is planned for Macau like the one recently conducted in Hong Kong, which saw the participation of at least 800,000 people.

Since 1999, when Macau was returned to China, the city has been a "special economic zone". Its chief executive is elected by a committee of 400 people, who represent corporate and community bodies and people picked by Beijing.

Unlike Hong Kong's Basic Law (the constitution signed by Beijing and London), Macau's constitution says nothing about universal suffrage and democratic transition.

The referendum will ask voters whether universal suffrage should be implemented by 2019 in Macau, and second, if they have confidence in the so-far unchallenged incumbent      Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on (pictured) who is expected to be confirmed in the 31 August poll.

Macau voters will be able to cast their ballot via website from 24 to 30 August. Polling stations will also be opened for the same period, from 11 am to 9 pm, although locations still have to be confirmed.

Macau's pro-democracy camp held a similar referendum two years ago to get people's opinion on political reform. However, only 2,600 citizens took part in the vote.

Organisers of the referendum planned for next month expect a substantially greater following this time.

They are comforted by the fact that in May a massive rally was held to condemn a bill that would have lavished benefits on outgoing chief executives and certain other government officials.

At least 20,000 people took part in that protest, the biggest in the city since residents rose up in 1989 to oppose the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown.

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