The emergence of the controversial Article 23 in Macau may be a factor in the legislation’s future in Hong Kong.
A draft of Macau’s Article 23 was unveiled on October 22nd 2008, which bans treason, theft of state secrets and subversion of the state.
The draft had many similarities to Hong Kong’s proposed version of Article 23, which was shelved indefinitely due to mass unpopularity in 2003.
Like Hong Kong, Macau enjoys its special administrative region status and also has its own mini-constitution. The two cities also make up the entrance of the Pearl River Delta, an economic gateway into China.
Macau’s population however, has low political awareness when compared to its neighbouring city. This makes the region an unlikely base of subversion and reactionary activity according to Macau political activist Lei Kin Yon.
“Macau is a very closed and conservative society, where there is no tolerance to criticism,” Lei said in an interview with Macau Closer.
Regardless of the different political atmosphere between the two neighbouring cities, Beijing wants Article 23 to be implemented in Macau as soon as possible.
“The delivery of the anti-subversion law has been a longstanding promise to Beijing who wants the enactment of Article 23 here to place pressure on Hong Kong to do likewise,” said Macau Legislator Leong Heng Teng in the Macau Business Magazine.
It is predicted that the law would easily pass through Macau’s legislative process. The less affluent Macau residents have a “high acceptance for the central government,” Macau political commentator Larry So man-yum said in the South China Morning Post.
In agreeing with Leong and So, Lawmaker Pereira Coutinho said, “Macau will be used as an example [for Hong Kong] and will demonstrate there is no problem with the regulation.”
In a statement by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the claim that the implementation of Article 23 in Macau would serve as a model for Hong Kong was retorted. “Whether or not the Macau legislature passes this Bill is of no relevance to Hong Kong and, therefore, should not be followed by the Hong Kong SAR Government in the foreseeable future.”
“The legal systems, the outlook and the interests of Hong Kong and Macau people are completely different,” stated the HKJA.
The Hong Kong government’s response was largely apathetic to the political developments in Macau and stated that their priorities were to solve the financial crisis and to improve peoples’ livelihood.
However, not everyone in the Hong Kong legislature was willing to watch from the sidelines.
Nine democratic legislators which made up a group of more than 20 Hong Kong democracy advocates planned to demonstrate against Article 23 on the streets of Macau on December 21st, 2008. They were declined at the Macau border. “They told us we have broken Macau security law, but they could not be more specific,” deputy chairwoman of the H.K. Democratic Party Emily Lau said.
Funnily enough, only 2 months ago, Edmund Ho Hau Wah, Chief Executive of Macau made a statement at a press conference where he said ‘chanting a few slogans, writing a few articles criticizing the central government or the Macau government, these activities won’t be regulated by this proposed law.”