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Aspects of Political Development in Macao


Under the terms of a secret agreement reached between China and Portugal in 1979, Portugal was to continue administering Macao but sovereignty was transferred to China. Eight years later however, the Sino–Portuguese agreement on Macao's future was signed, which stipulated that it would become a Chinese Special Administrative Region on 20 December 1999. Whereas the transitional stage from Portuguese to Chinese administration began in 1987, political development started in 1976 when the principle of democracy was introduced into the colonial legislature (two years after a military coup had toppled the regime of Marcello Caetano in Portugal). This article will explore aspects of Macao's political development since the Portuguese revolution in 1974.

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1. A Testimony of Macao's History (Macao: Ao Men Daily, 1987), p. 68. In 1987 the Macao Government disclosed the terms of the secret agreement in 1979. The secret agreement reached between the Chinese and Portuguese Ambassadors in Paris stated that “China has the sovereignty of Macao.” “As regards the date of returning Macao to China, the two governments will solve this problem through negotiation when the time is ripe.” Xing Dao Daily (Hong Kong, Toronto edit.), 12 January 1987, p. 9.

2. Political development involves “stability and orderly change,” democratization as well as citizen participation. According to Lucian Pye stability “is legitimately linked with the concept of development in that any form of economic and social advancement does generally depend upon an environment in which uncertainty has been reduced and planning based on reasonably safe predictions is possible.” See his Aspects of Political Development (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1966), pp. 4142. Pye lists 10 aspects of political development; this article uses three aspects important to Macao.

3. Jiushi niandai (The Nineties, Hong Kong), No. 204 (January 1987), p. 39.

4. SeeZepp R. A., “Interface of Chinese and Portuguese culture,” in Cremer Rolf (ed.), Macau, City of Commerce and Culture (Hong Kong: UEA Press, 1987), p. 131.

5. Xing Dao Daily,1 October 1986, p. 14.

6. For this view, see Tan Camoes, “Are we threatening ourselves?” Ming Bao (Hong Kong, American edit.), 26 March 1987, p. 2.

7. Lau Emily, “Bending the law,” Far Eastern Economic Review (hereafter FEER), 30 April 1987, p. 50. There are about 100,000 Portuguese passport–holders in Macao. According to the Sino–Portuguese agreement, China only allows Chinese nationals holding Portuguese passports to use them as travel documents after 1999.

8. Dicks Anthony, “Macao: Legal fiction and gunboat diplomacy,” in Aijmer Goran (ed.), Leadership on the China Coast (London: Curzon Press, 1984), p. 106.

9. Beijing Review, No. 7 (16 February, 1979), p. 3. In the same year, Macao's Border Gate with China was opened, giving the Macao people free access to China. See Sherwood Peter,Macao, A Glimpse of Glory (Hong Kong: Ted Thomas, 1980), chronology.

10. Tribuna (Macao Portuguese newspaper, Chinese version), 5 July 1988, p. 1.

11. The secretary for administration in Macao in an interview with news reporters of the Hong Kong Television Broadcast Company on 2 July 1988. The television programme on Macao was called “News Watch.”

12. Hong Kong Economic Journal, 27 July 1987, p. 3.

13. Quarterly Economic Review of Hong Kong and Macao (London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 1988), No. 2, p. 20. In 1988 some Portuguese entrepreneurs also formed a consortium with the mainland Chinese businessmen to construct an international airport in Macao.

14. Da zhongbao (Macao), 7 July 1988, p. 4. Also see Shi minbao (Macao), 7 July 1988, p. 4.

15. Xing Dao Daily 7, September 1988, p. 6. Ma is the chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce; Cui is the vice—chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce; He is a casino tycoon; and Wu is the director of the Macao Export Trade Association.

16. Today Macao Journal Weekly 15 August 1987, p.2. The former under–secretary for economy, finance and tourism, Carlos Monjardino, publicly acknowledged that Macao had become a financial source for some political parties in Portugal. See Xing Dao Daily,28 August 1987, p. 16 and 3 September 1987, p. 16.

17. Bai Xing Semi–monthly (Hong Kong), No. 172 (16 July 1988), pp. 4142. Also see FEER, 23 June 1988, pp. 16–17.

18. Tribuna, 30 August 1988, p. 3.

19. Ao Men Daily (Macao), 26 July 1988, p. 7.

20. Hua qiaobao (Macao), 7 July 1988 and The New Evening Post (Hong Kong), 27 June 1988, p. 2.

21. FEER, 22 October 1987, p. 37. Also see Huo liu (Moving Current, Macao), No. 31 (Summer 1987), p. 37.

22. Tribuna,19 April 1988, p. 2.

23. Letter to the editor, Tribuna, 2 February 1988, p. 8.

24. Huo liu, No. 34 (Spring 1988), p. 7.

25. Ming Bao Monthly (Hong Kong), Vol. 22, No. 4 (April 1987), p. 28.

26. Chiu Hungdah, “Introduction,” in Hungdah Chiu et al., The Future of Hong Kong (New York: Quorum Books, 1987), p. 8.

27. Han-qiang Wang, “The present and future of the political structure in Macao,” Hao jing (Macao), No. 2 (May 1987), p. 10.

28. Xing Dao Daily, 16 March 1988, p. 18.

29. Ibid. 19 April 1988, p. 10. A few days before the meeting, the head of the New China News Agency in Macao, Zhou Ding, even warned that the Sino–Portuguese agreement should not be “distorted.” See Cheng Bao (Hong Kong, American edit.), 15 April 1988, p. 1.

30. Xing Dao Daily, 21 May 1988, p. 6.

31. Ao Men Daily, 16 August 1988, p. 3.

32. Ibid 31 July 1988, p. 8.

33. Ibid. 10 August 1988, p. 3.

34. Hong Kong Economic Times, 27 June 1988, p. 8.

35. Tribuna,6 September 1988, p. 8.

36. See The Annual Report of Macao's Economy, 1983 (Macao: Hua Qiao Bao, 1983), p. 138. Also see Wesley-Smith Peter, “Macao,” in Blaustein Albert and Blaustein Eric (eds.), Constitutions of Dependencies and Special Sovereignties (New York: Oceana, 1977), p. 8.

37. Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly, No. 3 (June 1980), p. 40. Also see King Frank, “Macao,” The Far East and Australasia (London: Europa Publications Ltd., 1981), p. 711.

38. Guang jiao jing (Wide Angle, Hong Kong), No. 123 (16 December 1982), p. 25.

39. BXS, No. 67 (1 March, 1984), p. 54. Some Portuguese legislators distrusted the Macanese. A Portuguese lawyer, Jorge Neto Valente, thought that the Macanese proposal would “end up with [governmental] secretaries of convenience who enjoy the patronage of the assembly.” See FEER, 18 April 1980, p. 37.

40. BXS, No. 66 (16 February 1984), pp. 42–44.

41. After the dissolution of the legislature, three Macanese interest groups held a joint meeting to accuse Governor Costa of undermining the autonomy of the Legislative Assembly and to call for Costa's resignation. SeeBXS, No. 68 (16 March 1984), pp. 26–27.

42. From 1976 to 1980, there were 7 Chinese in the 17–member Legislative Assembly. Then 6 of the 17 legislators were Chinese from 1980 to 1984. But between 1984 and 1988, the number of Chinese deputies increased to 9 in the 17–member legislature. See Bing-shi Li, “Review and predict Macao's political reforms,” Hong Kong Economic Journal, 11 June 1987, p. 9.

43. FEER, 22 October 1987, p. 39.

44. See Afonso Rui and Pereira Francisco Goncalves, “The political status and government institutions of Macao,” Hong Kong Law Journal, Vol. 16, Pt. 1 (January 1986), p. 51.

45. Ao Men Daily, 26 July 1988, p. 2.

46. The New Evening Post, 4 July 1988, p. 2.

47. FEER, 10 June 1984, p. 23 and 20 September 1974, p. 31.

48. FEER, 9 May 1975.

49. Jiushi niandai, No. 176 (September 1984), p. 21. Also see Xing Dao Daily, 17 August 1984 and Asia Yearbook, 1985 (Hong Kong: Far Eastern Economic Review, 1985), p. 187.

50. Macao's direct elections adopts the hondt (list) system. Each political group competing in the elections put up a list of three to six candidates. After the votes are counted, each group acquires a number of seats in proportion to the votes it receives. For example, a group which obtains half of all the votes would have half of the directly elected seats in the legislature.

51. Jiushi niandai, No. 176 (September 1984), p. 21.

52. Quarterly Economic Review of Hong Kong and Macao(London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 1984), No. 3, p. 23. China also tried to bring d'Assumpcao and Governor Costa together by persuading them to sign an accord in which the Macanese would not block or amend the decrees introduced by the Governor. But eventually the Chinese attempt failed. SeeIbid. pp. 26–27 and South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), 6 January 1986, p. 8.

53. Bai Xing Semi–monthly, No. 117 (1 April 1986), p. 17.

54. Shi minbao (Macao), 19 August 1987, p. 2.

55. Bai Xing Semi–monthly, No. 150 (16 August 1987), p. 18.

56. Huo liu, No. 33 (Winter 1987), pp. 17–18. Also see Tribuna, 10 November 1987, p. 2 and 24 November 1987, p. 2.

57. Tribuna, 24 November 1987, p. 4; 19 January 1988 and 26 January 1988, p. 1.

58. Ibid. 19 January 1988, p. 1; 16 February 1988, p. 5; 26 July 1988, p. 6. Also see Ao Men Daily, 26 July 1988, p. 7.

59. Ao Men Daily, 25 July 1988, p. 7.

60. Tribuna, 1 December 1987, p. 4. In 1980, the population of Macao was 320,000. The figure rose to 400,000 in 1986. See Hong Kong and Macao Economic Digest (Guangzhou: Hong Kong and Macao Study Centre), No. 43 (30 April 1986), p. 45 and No. 46(15 July 1986), p. 4.

61. Even d'Assumpcao, who was the leader of the Electoral Union which won three of the six directly elected seats in the elections held for the Legislative Assembly in October 1988, revealed that numerous meetings of the legislature could not be conducted because many Chinese deputies had to attend the meetings of the Macao Chinese Chamber of Commerce. While the first and second Legislative Assembly passed 40 and 30 bills respectively, the 1984–88 Legislative Assembly passed only 20 bills which were concerned more about the salaries of civil servants than about the welfare of the people. See Bai Xing Semi–monthly, No. 174 (16 August 1988), p. 42. Also see Tribuna, 26 July 1988, p. 1.

62. Tribuna,24 May 1988, p. 8.

63. Tribuna, 8 December 1987, p. 4. In 1986 Alexandre He tabled a motion to set up a committee which would discuss the problems of Macao's future. But the motion was rejected by the pro–Beijing legislators. In October 1988 Alexandre He's political group won three of the six directly elected seats in the Legislative Assembly elections. The result stunned the pro–Beijing Chinese elites who decided to set up a joint legislators' office after the elections. See Ao Men Daily10 October 1988, p. 2.

64. Da zhongbao, 7 January 1985, cited in Han-qiang Wang (ed.), A Collection of Materials on the Question of Macao, Vol. 2 (Macao: Hua qiao bao, 1986), p. 47.

65. Raymond Yao, a journalist, has written “In Macao the government has been running the colony in a name only since the 1966 communist–inspired riots there.” See “As you were,” FEER, 6 May 1974, p. 15.

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