Much more freedom after return to motherland: Ho

2019-08-26 08:10     Comment:1

Chief Executive-elect Ho Iat Seng said yesterday that Macau residents have been enjoying much more freedom after Macau’s return to the motherland in 1999 than when the city was still under Portuguese administration.

Chief Executive-elect Ho Iat Seng waves to media workers at the end of yesterday’s press conference following his election as Macau’s third chief executive at the Macau East Asian Games Dome in Cotai. Photo: Maria Cheang Ut Meng

Ho, 62, made the remarks in reply to a question from a local Portuguese reporter during a press conference held after his resounding election victory.

In a short speech after his election, Ho promised that he will get his election campaign platform implemented, based on a spirit of reform and innovation, so as to serve Macau and its residents and the nation.

All the 400 members of the Chief Executive Election Committee attended yesterday’s election at the Macau East Asian Games Dome in Cotai. Ho, the sole candidate of the fifth-term chief executive election, was elected by 392 of the 400 electors, garnering 98 percent of the ballots. Seven of the 400 votes were left blank while one vote was deemed invalid by the Chief Executive Electoral Affairs Commission – which oversees the chief executive election process.

Yesterday’s election was the first time that all the Chief Executive Election Committee members attended and cast their ballots in a chief executive election since the establishment of the Macau Special Administrative Region (MSAR).

In the previous election in 2014 when Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On was re-elected, Chui obtained 95.96 percent of the ballots, while he won 95.27 percent of the votes in his first election in 2009.

Ho, a former speaker of the Legislative Assembly (AL), will be sworn as Macau’s third chief executive – and fifth-term chief executive – on December 20 – the 20th anniversary of Macau’s return to the motherland.
According to the Chief Executive Election Law, a chief executive candidate must obtain over half of all the members of the Chief Executive Election Committee members to be elected. A chief executive election must be attended by at least two third of the committee members to go ahead.

The whole procedure of the election, which started at 10 a.m., lasted about one hour during which the 400 electors cast their secret ballots.
During yesterday’s press conference – which also took place at the Macau East Asian Games Dome – about 30 minutes after his election, a local Portuguese reporter asked Ho to comment on views raised in civil society that increasingly more restrictions are imposed on the exercise and protection of basic rights in Macau nowadays.

Responding to the question, Ho said that he disagreed with this perceived view mentioned by the reporter, adding that such views “are not in line with reality”.

‘Big contrast’
Ho said, “I, and people of around the same age as me, experienced both periods – namely the period when Macau was under Portuguese administration and the period after Macau’s return to the motherland,” asking rhetorically, “Did we have much freedom of speech and many [kinds of human] rights to exercise when Macau was under Portuguese administration?”.

Ho said that in terms of the basic rights that residents can enjoy, there is a “very big” contrast between the period when Macau was under Portuguese administration and the period after Macau’s return to the motherland, adding that “frankly speaking, the level of freedom that we [Macau residents] have after Macau’s return to the motherland is much higher than before, a fact that we must acknowledge”.

Ho said, “Under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, there is nothing that we cannot say and all the media outlets in [Macau] have [press] freedom. You [the reporter] say that Macau has no freedom of speech, which I think is merely your own prejudice. We [Macau] don’t have any restrictions [on freedoms and basic rights].”

Ho, born in Macau in 1957, said, “I lived for some 40 years [in Macau] during the period when the city was under Portuguese administration and some 20 years after Macau’s return to the motherland. I and the people in my generation are very clear about the contrast in terms of the rights [that residents can exercise] between the periods after and before Macau’s return to the motherland,” adding that “Maybe you are young so that you did not experience the period 20 or more years before. Ho suggested that the reporter interview some old Macau residents so as to confirm whether he has commented wrongly on the matter.

3 criteria for policy secretaries
When asked by reporters about the criteria which he will use to choose the five policy secretaries of his future administration, Ho said that the future policy secretaries must possess three main criteria, namely integrity, executive capabilities, and the willingness to communicate with residents, adding that these criteria are the “prerequisites” for a “service-orientated government”.

Ho also revealed that the current number of five policy secretaries will remain unchanged in his administration.

Ho said that civil society has raised various opinions concerning the future team of policy secretaries of his government, some suggesting that some of the existing policy secretaries remain in their respective positions and others suggesting that all the policy secretaries be changed. Ho noted that he interacted and communicated with many government officials over the decade in the legislature, adding that therefore he has a good understanding of the working abilities of various officials.

Ho, a businessman and son of legendary local industrialist Ho Tin, is a former speaker of the Macau Legislative Assembly (AL). He is also a former member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC).

Ho said that he will listen to opinions raised in civil society first before deciding on his team of policy secretaries. Ho said he hopes that civil society will give him more time to handle the matter. Ho underlined that he has never spoken to anyone concerning his selection of policy secretaries, adding that he will start to think about his selection of policy secretaries after resting for one or two days following yesterday’s election.

Vowing ‘real’ environmental protection
Ho also said that Macau would carry out its own good work for environmental protection, namely by not simply transferring recycled rubbish from Macau to other countries or regions for processing, which he described as “fake environmental protection”.

Ho said that he has also been engaged in environmental protection businesses for some 30 years so he has a deep understanding of the environmental protection issue. Ho said that any region, including Macau, should not simply recycle plastic bottles and then send them to other countries or regions such as the mainland or Southeast Asian countries for further processing.

Ho urged residents to increase their awareness of environmental protection and encouraged them to use “non-eco friendly” products less such as bottled water.

Vow to complete Taipa-Barra LRT line
Ho also pledged that the ongoing project of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) section connecting Taipa and Barra at the southernmost tip of the peninsula will “surely” be completed within the five-year term of his next government – which will end on December 2024. The current government said earlier this month that it now aims for the Taipa-Barra section to be completed in 2022 or 2023.

Several Chief Executive Election Committee members cast their ballots in the Macau East Asian Games Dome during yesterday’s election of Macau’s new chief executive. Photo: GCS

Ho also pledged that his future government will get the current-government-planned sea-crossing LRT section connecting the peninsula’s Barrier Gate border checkpoint and the Taipa Ferry Terminal – via the land reclamation area known as Zone A (also known as the “East” section) – off the ground during his term at the helm of the local government.

Ho also said that as the depot, the setting-up of the control system and the trains are the main cost of the LRT system and that all these things are already in place, he does not expect the cost of the future “East” section project to be very high.

Transparent hiring of non-local talents
Ho also pledged that his government, which will be sworn in on December 20, will increase the transparency of its mechanism to allow the hiring of non-local talents. Ho noted that Macau currently has a large number of non-resident workers, nearly reaching a ratio of 1:1 between non-local and local employees in the local job market.

Ho also pointed out that according to the city’s current labour rules, non-local workers are meant to supplement the shortage of local workers in the job market, adding that his government would continue to adhere to this principle.
Ho also said that Macau has “numerous” talents, adding there is no other place in the world like Macau which has so many casino dealers.
Ho underlined that the issue of talents would need to be further studied in order to promote Macau’s economic diversification.

Ho further underlined that civil society would need to define what really constitute “talents”.

Legislation & policy-making strengths
During the press conference, Ho also told reporters that based on his working experience in the legislature, legislative work and policy decision-making are his strengths, adding his “shortcoming” was his relative lack of knowledge of the city’s social services.

Ho said that “everyone has his or her own shortcomings”, pledging that he will visit the city’s social services organisations more often with the aim of obtaining a better understanding of their needs.

Hengqin ‘enclave’
Ho also said that many pharmaceutical manufacturers want to invest in Macau but the city’s scarce land resources are discouraging such potential investments. Ho said that an “enclave” of Macau on Zhuhai’s Hengqin Island would help Macau develop its high-end manufacturing. 

Ho Iat Seng (center) reacts after being elected Macau’s next chief executive at the Macau East Asian Games Dome yesterday. – Xinhua

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