Macau to celebrate Chinese rule as Hong Kong seethes

December 17, 2019

MACAU - The former Portuguese colony of Macau will this week celebrate 20 years since its return to China, with Beijing's leaders praising a pliant city that has grown rich on gambling and deference to authoritarian rule.

The jubilation will be in contrast to the mood in neighboring Hong Kong, the only other region run under the "one country, two systems" model which has endured six months of often violent pro-democracy protests.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend Friday's anniversary celebrations in Macau, where the population of 700,000 has expressed little of the Hong Kong-style dissent.

"(Macau) is like the good boy in a family," Larry So, a Hong Kong-born social scientist who taught and has retired in Macau, told AFP.

"Good boys always get candies, and the good boy may find his life pretty comfortable."

Macau's skyline and economy have changed beyond recognition since four centuries of Portuguese rule ended in 1999, with glittering casinos the backbone of the city's dramatic rise.

As the only place in China where gambling is allowed, Macau's GDP has soared from $6.4 billion in 1999 to more than $55 billion.

"Since the handover the living standards have seen a big improvement," secondary school teacher Celia Chong told AFP last week as her students searched for tourists to fill out a questionnaire.

Chong cited generous government subsidies and handouts, as well as opportunities to work on the mainland.

"I think as a resident in Macau, the handover anniversary will be a happy, big event," she said.

Shotah Zhang said his family's business of selling egg tarts to tourists had boomed.

"Before it was a very quiet little town, but in the past 20 years, we have had a big change," he told AFP.

Nearly 36 million tourists visited Macau in 2018, the vast majority from mainland China. -AFP

December 17, 2019
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