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China Strengthens Control in Macao

FILE - Macao Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng, left, poses with Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a photo after taking his oath at the inauguration ceremony in Macao, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019 to mark the 20th anniversary of the former Portuguese colony's handover to Chinese rule.
China Strengthens Control in Macao
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China is strengthening federal controls over its territory of Macao. The area, like Hong Kong, is officially called a Special Administrative Region. For many years, Macao has operated with wide self-rule powers, as part of China’s One State, Two Systems policy.

But recently, China established a cooperation policy between Macao and the mainland city of Guangzhou. It also placed restrictions on businesses called casinos and manipulated a local parliamentary election.

The new partnership with Guangzhou includes changes in tax laws and other policies. The aim is to move Macao’s economy away from the gambling industry and toward fields such as finance, high-technology, traditional Chinese medicine and others.

Ben Lee is a casino advisor in Macao. He told VOA by email that China never wanted gambling to become the biggest part of Macao’s economy. He said China also never wanted Macao to be economically dependent on the mainland.

The new casino measures are designed to limit the number of gambling operations and involve government supervisors in casino operations. American companies operate six casino businesses in Macao. Lee said that fact has fueled China’s increased control on the gambling industry.

Lee noted that Macao’s gaming industry earned $45 billion in 2013 and $37 billion in 2019. “This represents money that flowed out of the Chinese economy into and from Macao,” Lee wrote, adding that much of that money went to the United States.

In July, 21 people seeking election to parliament were barred from the competition. All were members of opposition parties. The parties sought legal action against the government decision but their appeal was denied in court.

The parliamentary election was held in September. Forty-two percent of the voting population took part, the lowest level since China took control of Macao in 1999.

The head of elections in Macao reportedly blamed COVID-19 and bad weather for the drop in voter numbers.

The European Union criticized the interference in Macao’s election as a violation of rights guaranteed by Macao law.

The Macao government answered by condemning the E.U. statement as an example of outside interference.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English based on a VOA News report. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story

casino – n. a building or room that has games such as roulette or blackjack for gambling

manipulate – v. to manage skillfully and especially with intent to deceive