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Govt spokesman says ‘referendum’ is unconstitutional

Macau’s chief government spokesman Alexis Tam Chon Weng said at the weekend that a “referendum” planned by three local grassroots groups was a violation of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Macau Basic Law. Tam, who also heads the office of Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On and holds a string […]

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:49 am

Macau’s chief government spokesman Alexis Tam Chon Weng said at the weekend that a “referendum” planned by three local grassroots groups was a violation of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Macau Basic Law.

Tam, who also heads the office of Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On and holds a string of other important posts, made the remark on the sidelines of a public function on Saturday.

Tam said that the government was firmly opposed to the so-called “civic referendum” by Macau Conscience, Open Macau Society and Macau Youth Dynamics. The three organisations announced the “referendum” last Monday.

According to the announcement, the “referendum” on universal suffrage in 2019 and next month’s chief executive election by a 400-member committee is slated to take place at the end of next month.

The chief executive election will be held on August 31.

It was the second time that Tam said that the government opposed the “referendum”.

On Tuesday last week, Tam described the “referendum” as “invalid” and “illegal.” Later that day the Liaison Office of the People’s Government in Macau said in a statement that it “completely agrees” with the local government’s stance.

Speaking on Saturday, Tam pointed out that Macau is a special administrative region of China and that the nation’s Constitution does not provide for the holding of referenda.

Tam said this meant that any individual or group holding a “referendum” would therefore breach the nation’s Constitution.

The multi-tasking official also pointed out that Macau is an inalienable part of China and that the city’s autonomy has been delegated by the central government to the local authorities.

Tam also underlined the central government’s strong support for Macau of which he singled out the 8th Ministerial Tourism Meeting of APEC in Macau later this year.

He said that even though Macau is not an APEC member, the central government had decided to hold the tourism ministers meeting in Macau. Tam said that Macau should thank the central government for giving the city the chance of hosting such a large-scale international meeting, which was only possible thanks to the delegation of powers to the local authorities and “the nation’s strong support.”

Tam also said that the planned “referendum” was “challenging” the city’s election system and upcoming chief executive election. He underlined the fact that Macau’s election system has been implemented in line with the Basic Law and after its approval by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC).

Tam insisted that no-one would be allowed to change the existing election system through a “referendum”.

However, Tam also said that opinion surveys by academic groups would always be welcome. He also said the government was ready to listen to citizens’ ideas and criticisms.

Tam also said that Macau’s development in the past 15 years since the 1999 change in administration had not been easy because of which the government was determined to defend the city’s social stability and harmony.

He also said the government would continue to consult public opinion and improve residents’ living conditions.

Meanwhile, Chui told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the Zone A land reclamation site on Friday that the three groups’ “referendum” would violate the Basic Law and legal system.

He also said that Secretary for Administration and Justice Florinda Chan Lai Man and the Liaison Office of the People’s Government in Macau had already expressed their views on the issue. Chan said last week that the “referendum” would be “without legal basis” and, consequently, have “no legal effect.”

Chui also said he expected the local population to respect Macau’s existing election laws. He added that any deviation from the current electoral system would be “without legal basis.”

Chui also said that he was not the right person to decide whether next month’s “referendum
” would be illegal, a matter that should be handled by independent judicial authorities.

He also said his government would keep a close eye on the matter.(macaunews/macaupost)

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:49 am

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