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Title: Macau Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


Macau, a tiny enclave on the south China coast encompassing only 6 
square miles, is recognized by both China and Portugal as Chinese 
territory under Portuguese administration.  The "Organic Statute" of 
1976, which serves as Macau's Constitution, grants it considerable 
administrative, financial, and legislative autonomy.  Legislative power 
is exercised by both the Governor and the Legislative Assembly.  The 
Governor, appointed by the Portuguese President, holds expansive powers 
under the Organic Statute.  

Under the 1987 Sino-Portuguese joint declaration, Macau will become a 
Special Administration Region (SAR) of China on December 20, 1999, and 
operate under the principle of "one country, two systems," to remain 
unchanged for 50 years.  The Macau SAR's future Constitution, a joint 
Sino-Portuguese document called the "Basic Law," was promulgated on 
March 31, 1993.

Portuguese metropolitan law serves as the basis for the legal system, 
which features a judiciary and jury trials.  The police force maintains 
public order and is under control of the civilian authorities.

The market-based economy is fueled by legalized gambling, which 
generates approximately one-half of government revenue.  A thriving 
tourist industry and the export of textiles and other light industrial 
products also contribute to economic growth.  The opening of an 
international airport in December is expected to promote future economic 
expansion.  The economy provides a high standard of living for its 

Although citizens derive a wide range of rights and freedoms from 
Macau's status as a Portuguese territory, they have limited ability to 
change their government.  The Governor is appointed by the Portuguese 
President, only a third of the legislators are directly elected, and the 
territory's future path has been set by Lisbon and Beijing.  New 
legislation, effective in November, provides greater equality in the 
work force for women.  China, through the Basic Law, has agreed to 
continue the application of international covenants on civil and 
political rights and on economic, social, and cultural rights after 
1999.  Following a 1995 ruling of the Constitutional Court in Lisbon, 
the Macau Supreme Court reversed a decision to extradite to China three 
men alleged to have committed crimes in that country.  This followed 
international criticism of the involuntary transfer by the police to 
Chinese authorities of an Australian citizen of Chinese ancestry in 
1994.  Macau authorities investigated this matter and claimed to have 
found no evidence of police misconduct.  There are credible reports that 
media self-censorship continues as 1999 draws nearer, particularly on 
issues considered to be sensitive to China.  


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 

Such abuses are prohibited by law, and the authorities respect this in 
practice.  Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, and 
the Government permits visits by human rights monitors.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Legal prohibitions against arbitrary arrest exist, and the authorities 
respect them in practice.  The examining judge, who conducts a pretrial 
inquiry in criminal cases, has a wide range of powers to collect 
evidence, order or dismiss indictments, validate and maintain the 
detention of suspects, and determine whether to release accused persons.  
Police must present persons remanded in custody to an examining judge 
within 48 hours of detention.  The accused's counsel may examine the 
evidence.  If the judge is not convinced that the evidence is adequate, 
he may dismiss the accused.

A recent ruling by the Macau Supreme Court upholding a Portuguese 
Constitutional Court decision on the unconstitutionality of extraditing 
individuals to countries that practice the death penalty clarified 
Macau's policy towards people alleged to have committed commercial or 
criminal violations in China.  This ruling followed international 
criticism of the involuntary transfer to Chinese authorities of an 
Australian citizen of Chinese ancestry in 1994.  Macau authorities 
investigated this matter and claim to have found no evidence of police 
misconduct.  Human rights activists claim that in numerous cases in the 
past, Macau police had "transferred" detainees to China, despite the 
absence of a Sino-Portuguese extradition treaty.  The Macau authorities 
have suggested that the three persons affected by the recent court 
ruling could be tried in Macau for the crimes they allegedly committed 
in China, using evidence and witnesses furnished by China.  Chinese 
officials on the Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group, however, 
criticized the decision by the Macau Supreme Court, arguing that because 
Macau is considered to be a part of China, no formal extradition 
arrangements are necessary for the transfer of prisoners wanted by 

Exile is not practiced.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Changes to the judicial system in 1993 designed to render the system 
autonomous from the Portuguese system--required to bring the system into 
line with the structure for the judicial system specified in the Sino-
Portuguese Basic Law--raised some concerns among human rights observers 
and journalists.  Prior to the reorganization, the judiciary of Macau 
had only subordinate (first instance) courts located in the territory.  
In the first stage of the reforms, new courts, most notably a Supreme 
Court of Justice, were established to allow appeals to be heard locally.

The Macau Superior Court currently consists of six magistrates broken 
down into two panels, one of which hears only administrative, fiscal, 
and customs duties cases and the other overseeing all other types of 
cases.  An additional judge serves as President of the Court.  Cases 
before the Supreme Court are heard initially by the relevant panel of 
three judges.  In instances where a judgment has been rendered by such a 
panel and subsequently appealed, the case is then heard by all six 
judges, with the President voting only in case of a tie.  This structure 
results in a situation where three of the individuals hearing an appeal 
have already rendered an opinion in the initial judgment, which critics 
charge calls into question the objectivity of the subsequent appeal 
ruling.  Until full autonomy of the Macau courts is achieved, however, 
some special appeal cases may still be either presented directly to 
outside courts in Portugal or reach them through a local court.

Journalists and human rights activists have also voiced concerns that, 
as a result of the 1993 reforms, judges and public prosecutors are now 
appointed by the Governor based on proposals made by two administrative 
boards of the judiciary:  the Supreme Council of Justice, which 
recommends judges for appointment to the Macau Supreme Court as well as 
the local attorney general, and the Judiciary Council of Macau, which 
recommends judges for the Macau common courts and delegates to the 
public prosecutor's office.  In particular, critics charge that the 
strong ties members of the latter group have to the executive branch and 
to China raise questions about the independence of the judiciary, 
particularly as judges and public prosecutors rely on the Judiciary 
Council to win renewal of their 3-year assignments.  The 3-year 
appointment of judges differs from the practice in Portugal, where 
appointments are generally for life.

The law provides for a fair trial, and this is generally observed.  The 
Constitution provides for the right of access to law and the courts.  
The defense of indigent people and absentees are the responsibility of 
the public prosecution office.  Public prosecutors are appointed by the 

There were no reports of political prisoners.

  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

Laws provide for the inviolability of the home and of communication, the 
right of ownership of private property and enterprises, and the freedom 
to marry and raise a family.  There are no indications of abuse of these 
rights by the Government.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Journalists and human rights activists believe that the practice of 
media self-censorship is increasing in Macau as reversion approaches.  
Critics charge that Macau's leading newspapers are pro-China 
publications that do not give equal coverage to liberal and prodemocracy 
voices.  Reporters and human rights monitors expressed concern over 
directives issued over a 2-year period, but which only came to light in 
October, by a senior manager at the government-controlled news agency.  
These directives instructed personnel not to report on such issues as 
hunger strikes by Chinese dissidents, issues stemming from the 1989 
Tiananmen crackdown, and statements by leading prodemocracy voices in 
Macau.  The news agency responded by stating that the senior official 
had acted alone in issuing these directives and had been reassigned to 
another department.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 

  c.  Freedom of Religion

The law provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects 
this right in practice.

  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation

The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in 

The Government has assisted in the resettlement of Vietnamese boat 
people.  At year's end, there were only nine Vietnamese refugees living 
in Macau.  All other boat people have emigrated to host countries.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government

Citizens have a limited ability to change their government.  The 23-
member Legislative Assembly is composed of 8 members elected in 
universal direct elections; 8 indirectly elected by local community 
interests; and 7 appointed by the Governor.  The Consultative Council, 
an advisory group to the Governor composed of elected and appointed 
members, also provides some measure of popular representation.  By 
tradition, the Government also consults informally on a regular basis 
with local business and cultural leaders.  Although the Legislative 
Assembly can enact laws on all matters except those reserved for bodies 
in Portugal or the Governor, in reality the Governor initiates the vast 
majority of legislation, either directly through "decree-laws" or in the 
form of "proposals of law" that require that he receive the permission 
of the Legislative Assembly prior to issuing legislation.  While the 
Legislative Assembly has the legal power to refuse to ratify laws issued 
by the Governor, in practice this is seldom done.

Although women traditionally have played a minor role in local political 
life, they increasingly are being found in senior positions throughout 
the administration.  The Legislative Assembly has three female members 
including the President of the Assembly, which is the second most senior 
position.  The Undersecretary for Health and Social Affairs is a woman, 
and other high-level positions in administrative ministries, including 
education and statistics, are filled by women.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, 
investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status

While the Constitution does not explicitly proscribe discrimination 
based on race, sex, religion, disability, language or social status, it 
does incorporate the principle of nondiscrimination.  Separate laws 
enshrine many of these rights.  Access to education, for example, is 
provided for all residents regardless of race, religious belief, or 
political or ideological convictions under the law which establishes the 
general framework for Macau's educational system.


Cases of violence against women are not common.  For cases that are 
reported, the authorities enforce criminal statutes prohibiting domestic 
violence and prosecute violators.  Police and doctors report abuses to 
the Social Welfare Department, which investigates them.  If hospital 
treatment is required, a  medical social worker counsels the victim and 
informs her about social welfare services.  Until their complaints are 
resolved, battered women may be placed in public housing, but no 
facilities are reserved expressly for them.

Women are becoming more active and visible in business and government, 
and some enjoy considerable influence and responsibility in these areas.  
Equal opportunity legislation, applicable to all public and private 
organizations and enacted in 1995, mandates that women receive equal pay 
for equal work, states that discrimination based on sex or physical 
ability is not permitted, and establishes penalties for employers found 
to be in violation of these guidelines.


The Government has not promulgated any statutes specifically to protect 
the rights of children, relying on the general framework of civil and 
political rights legislation to protect all citizens.  However, the 
Government seeks to protect the health and well-being of children, who 
represent a growing share of the population.  The Social Welfare 
Institute is charged with taking the lead in implementing programs 
designed to provide services for children.  A government-sponsored 
panel, set up to study specifically the provision of social services for 
Chinese families, recently recommended that greater effort be expended 
to address the need for additional educational and other services for 

Child abuse and exploitation are not widespread problems.  

  People with Disabilities

The extent to which physically disabled persons experience 
discrimination in employment, education, and the provision of state 
services is not known.  The Government gives little attention to the 
subject, and there is little funding for special programs aimed at 
helping the physically and mentally disabled gain better access to 
employment, education, and public facilities.  The Government has not 
mandated accessibility for the disabled, legislatively or otherwise.

  National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although the governmental and legal systems place a premium on knowledge 
of the Portuguese language, which is spoken by less than 4 percent of 
the population, the Chinese language received official status in 1993, 
and the use of Chinese in the civil service is growing.

There is considerable public pressure for the Government to speed up the 
process of making the civil service more representative of the 
population; however, the pace of adding native born Chinese speakers to 
the senior civil service has been very slow.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

The Portuguese Constitution recognizes the right and freedom of all 
workers to form and join trade unions and of private sector unions to 
strike, and these rights are extended to Macau.  The Government neither 
impedes the formation of trade unions nor discriminates against union 

People's Republic of China interests heavily influence local trade union 
activities, including the selection of union leadership, and stress the 
importance of stability and minimum disruption of the work force.  
Nearly all of Macau's private sector union members belong to a pro-China 
labor confederation.  Many local observers claim that this organization 
is more interested in furthering the Chinese political agenda in Macau 
than in addressing classic trade union issues.  A few private sector 
unions and two of the four public sector unions are outside Chinese 
control.  Although the Portuguese Constitution provides workers with the 
right to strike, labor leaders complain that there is no effective 
protection from retribution should they exercise this right.

Unions may freely form federations and affiliate with international 
bodies.  Three civil services unions are affiliated with the major non-
Communist Portuguese union confederation.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions tend to resemble local traditional neighborhood associations, 
promoting social and cultural activities rather than issues relating to 
the workplace.  Local customs, moreover, normally favor employment 
without the benefit of written labor contracts except in the case of 
labor from China.  Unions traditionally have not attempted to engage in 
collective bargaining.  Portuguese laws protecting collective bargaining 
apply to Macau and the Government does not impede or discourage such 
activity.  No rules apply to the setting of wages and no minimum wage 
exists for local or foreign workers.

However, a significant amount of the total work force (approximately 16 
percent) is composed of laborers from China and other countries who fill 
both blue- and white-collar  positions.  These workers often work for 
less than half the wages paid to a Macau citizen performing the same 
job, live in controlled dormitories, work 10 to 12 hours a day, and owe 
large sums of money to the labor importing company for the purchase of 
their job.  Labor interests claim that the high percentage of imported 
labor erodes the bargaining power of local residents to improve working 
conditions and increase wages.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and there were no complaints 
of it.

There are no export processing zones; all of Macau is a free port.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Compulsory labor is illegal and does not exist.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law forbids minors under the age of 16 to work, except in businesses 
operated by their families.  The Labor Department which enforces this 
law refers offending employers to the judicial authorities for 
prosecution.  The Labor Department claims that the incidence of child 
labor has declined radically since effective enforcement began in 1985.  
School attendance is not compulsory.

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

In the absence of any statutory minimum wage or publicly administered 
social security programs, some large companies have provided private 
welfare and security packages.  Calls for labor reform, improvements in 
medical insurance and social security programs, and increases in 
employee compensation figure regularly in political campaign platforms.

Labor legislation provides for a 48-hour workweek, an 8-hour workday, 
overtime, annual leave, medical and maternity care, and employee 
compensation insurance.  Although the Labor Law provides a 24-hour rest 
period for every 7 days of work, worker representatives report that 
workers frequently agree to work overtime to compensate for low wages.  
The Department of Labor provides assistance and legal advice to workers 
on request, but government enforcement of labor laws is lax because of 
limited resources.

The Department of Labor enforces occupational safety and health.  
Failure to correct infractions leads to government prosecution.  
Although a recent law states that employers should provide safe working 
conditions, no guarantee exists to protect employees' right to continued 
employment if they refuse to work under dangerous conditions.


[end of document]


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