Interview: Macau’s pro-democracy politicians now face Hong Kong-style crackdown
After nearly 30 years as one of Macau’s few pro-democracy lawmakers, Ng Kuok-cheong is finally facing the end of the road – barred from running in the next Casino City legislative election in September.
Announced last Friday, the sweeping decision by the Macau Election Commission to remove the 21 pro-democracy candidates from the race came without warning.
They were ruled ineligible for allegedly failing to abide by the Basic Law and pledge allegiance to Macau, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, based on evidence presented by the police.
Macau election officials who made the announcement did not give details of the evidence. The legislative candidates, from six electoral lists, were notified of their disqualification on Friday.
“We are 100% convinced that we have not broken any of the requirements of the electoral laws and 100% convinced that [we] had no action or evidence showing that we did not support Macao SAR and the Basic Law, ”Ng told HKFP in an interview.
He is a pro-democracy political leader of the Iniciativa de Desenvolvimento Comunitário de Macau group.
“Of course, if it is a strong political decision, there will be no effective appeal,” Ng said. “If it was not a strong political decision but a bureaucratic maneuver [by Macau officials], we are fully convinced that we will be able to explain ourselves.
However, as the lawmaker and his running mate seek to appeal the ruling, he declined to say whether it was politically motivated. The candidates submitted their objection to the Electoral Affairs Commission on Monday and can take the case to the Court of Final Appeal if necessary, Ng said. The court’s decision would be announced on August 2.
“I imagine this is of course linked to the situation in Hong Kong, like [disqualifications] are rife there, and with the National Security Law the crackdown has become stronger, ”Ng said.
As the affairs of Hong Kong and Macao are handled by the same central government officials, “it is not surprising that their approach [to the two cities] looks identical.
Another pro-democracy veteran lawmaker and longtime partner of Ng, Au Kam-san, who did not participate in this year’s race, said he was “shocked” that the candidates were disqualified.
Au has been an MP in Macau since 2001, two years after the former Portuguese colony was returned to China. He had planned to step down from the legislature and focus on community work after the end of his current term.
“[I] I never imagined that would happen in Macau, ”Au said of the disqualifications. The city has seen little or no political turmoil and turmoil that has plagued Hong Kong in recent years.
Unlike Macau, Au said, Hong Kong had seen a host of legislative changes, including a national security law enacted by Beijing and a major overhaul of the electoral system before the disqualification and potential dismissal of candidates and other politicians. .
“Even if we do not accept it, there have indeed been changes [in Hong Kong], “he said.” But in Macau there has been no change in the law. To put it simply, it is from the point of view of legal interpretation that what was not a problem in the past was suddenly interpreted as “evidence proving that [the candidates] did not support the Basic Law or swear allegiance to the SAR, ”said Au.
All disqualified candidates signed declarations of allegiance to Macao SAR and the Basic Law. They include not only candidates who advocate democracy, but also those from unions belonging to the city’s liberal factions. “If all liberals are disqualified … the legislature will be purged of all opposition votes,” Au said.
Traditionally, there have only been two or three pro-democracy or liberal candidates among the 14 directly elected seats in the Macau Legislative Assembly. The remaining 33 seats are elected or appointed indirectly.
Macau’s pro-democracy camp has not had much support from the population, Au said. There were, he said, already “fires in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, there is no need to start another in Macao”.
Au said opposition voices in the Macanese legislature had been “extremely weak” but now, with the prospect of nothing at all, “this is tantamount to suppressing the legislature”.
The political changes imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong have significantly reduced the number of directly elected seats and placed major obstacles in the way of pan-Democratic candidates. Still, media have reported authorities would like at least a few Democrats to show up.
“The [Macau] the situation may be more dire than in Hong Kong … Carrie Lam may wish people like Frederick Fung would join the election and be in the legislature as proof that “we allow Democrats to participate in the elections,” “said At. “The purge is more complete here than in Hong Kong.”