Human rights in Macau
Human rights in Macau refers to the basic rights of citizens of Macau, a former Portuguese colony that reverted to Chinese administration in 1999. As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Macau enjoys a high degree of autonomy, except in defense and foreign affairs, and its citizens have basic freedoms and enjoy legally protected rights. The Macau Basic Law is the SAR's constitution, promulgated by PRC's National People's Congress (NPC) in 1993. The 1987 Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law specify that the SAR is to continue to enjoy substantial autonomy and its economic system and way of life are to remain unchanged for the first 50 years under PRC sovereignty. The government is led by a chief executive, chosen by a 300-member election committee, which, in turn, is chosen by a preparatory committee composed of 60 SAR and 40 mainland representatives appointed by the NPC. In August, the committee re-elected Edmund Ho to a second term as chief executive. The most recent legislative elections were in 2001, when voters elected ten of the legislature's 27 members in direct elections based on geographical constituencies. Interest groups in functional constituencies elected ten others, and the chief executive appointed the remaining seven members. There are limits on the types of bills that may be initiated by individual members of the legislature. The judiciary is independent.
The Public Security Police, which was created at the time of the handover through a merger of the various police force branches, has primary responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of public order. The civilian authorities maintained effective control of the police. The People's Liberation Army maintained a garrison of approximately 800 soldiers in the SAR. According to the Macau Garrison Law, the Chief Executive can call on the garrison to maintain public order, but it has never been used for this purpose. There were no reports that security forces committed human rights abuses.
The market-based economy was fueled by textile and garment exports, infrastructure investment, and construction, along with tourism and gambling. The population was approximately 461,000. The economy grew at an annual rate of 30.5 percent in the first nine months of the year.
The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. These problems included the limited ability of citizens to change their government, limits on the legislature's ability to initiate legislation, and a lack of legal protection for strikes and collective bargaining rights.
- 1 Respect for human rights
- 1.1 Respect for the integrity of the person, including freedom from
- 1.2 Respect for civil liberties
- 1.3 Respect for political rights: The right of citizens to change their government
- 1.3.1 Governmental attitude regarding international and nongovernmental investigation of alleged violations of human rights
- 1.3.2 Discrimination, societal abuses, and trafficking in persons
- 1.3.3 Women
- 1.3.4 Children
- 1.3.5 Trafficking in persons
- 1.3.6 Persons with disabilities
- 1.3.7 National/Racial/Ethnic minorities
- 2 Worker rights
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Respect for human rights
Respect for the integrity of the person, including freedom from
Arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life
There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents.
There were no reports of suspicious deaths in custody. The Public Prosecutions Office filed a criminal investigation concerning one of the Judiciary Police officers involved in the 2002 death of a prisoner in custody. An investigation into the conduct of a second officer was ongoing at year's end.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
The law prohibits such practices, and the Government generally respected these provisions in practice. During the year, there were 21 reports of police brutality, compared with no reports in 2003.
Prison conditions met international standards, and the government permitted visits by independent human rights observers. As of October, the prison population was 872, almost one-quarter of whom were from the PRC. At year's end, the SAR and the PRC had not reached an agreement on prisoner transfers. Female prisoners were held separately from male prisoners, juveniles were held separately from adults, and pretrial detainees were separated from convicted prisoners.
Arbitrary arrest or detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions. Civilian authorities, specifically the Secretary for Security, supervised and controlled the police. The Public Security Police was well-disciplined. The Commission Against Corruption acted to preclude problems with corruption.
Police must present persons remanded in custody to an examining judge within 48 hours of detention. The examining judge, who conducts a pretrial inquiry in criminal cases, has a wide range of powers to collect evidence, order or dismiss indictments, and determine whether to release detained persons. The accused person's counsel may examine the evidence. The law provides that cases must come to trial within six months of an indictment. The estimated average length of pretrial incarceration was three to six months. Judges often refused bail in cases where sentences could exceed three years.
Denial of fair public trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected this provision in practice. According to the Basic Law, the courts have the power of final adjudication in all cases that are within the authority of the SAR. The courts may also rule on matters that are "the responsibility of the Central People's Government or concern the relationship between the central authorities and the [Special Administrative] Region"; however, before making their final judgment (a judgment not subject to appeal), the courts must seek an interpretation of the relevant provisions from the NPC's Standing Committee. When the Standing Committee makes an interpretation of the provisions concerned, the courts, in applying those provisions, "shall follow the interpretation of the Standing Committee." The Standing Committee must consult the NPC's Committee for the Basic Law of the SAR before giving an interpretation of the law. This committee is composed of ten members, five from the SAR and five from the mainland. The Chief Executive, the President of the Legislative Assembly, and the President of the Court of Final Appeal nominate the SAR members.
The Basic Law provides for the use of Portuguese, in addition to Chinese, as an official language by executive authorities, the legislature, and the judiciary. The need to translate laws and judgments from Portuguese and a severe shortage of local bilingual lawyers and magistrates have hampered development of the legal system. At year's end, there were 105 lawyers in private practice in the SAR, of whom 14 spoke Mandarin and Cantonese and 27 spoke only Cantonese. The government sponsored a post-graduate training program for magistrates who had received legal training outside of the SAR. The judiciary was relatively inexperienced and lacked locally trained lawyers. The first law school in the SAR opened in the early 1990s.
According to the Basic Law, the Chief Executive appoints judges at all levels, acting on the recommendation of an independent commission, which he appoints. The commission is composed of local judges, lawyers, and "eminent persons." The Basic Law stipulates that judges must be chosen on the basis of their professional qualifications. Judges may be removed only for criminal acts or an inability to discharge their functions. Except for the Chief Justice, who must be a Chinese citizen with no right of abode elsewhere, judges may be foreigners.
There are four courts: the Primary Court, with general jurisdiction of first instance; the Administrative Court, with jurisdiction of first instance in administrative disputes; the Court of Second Instance; and the Court of Final Appeal.
The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. By law, trials are open to the public, except when publicity could cause great harm to the dignity of the persons, to public morals, or to the normal development of the trial. A decision to close off a trial must be revoked if those factors cease to exist, and the verdict must always be delivered in public. The Criminal Procedure Code provides for an accused person's right to be present during proceedings and to choose an attorney or request that one be provided at government expense. The Organized Crime Ordinance provides that "certain procedural acts may be held without publicity and that witness statements read in court are admissible as evidence." There are also additional restrictions on the granting of bail and suspended sentences in organized crime cases.
The judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process; however, at times, a period of up to a year passed between the filing of a civil case and its scheduled hearing.
A Public Prosecutor General heads the Public Prosecutions Office. It enjoys substantial autonomy from both the executive and the judiciary. The Basic Law stipulates that the Public Prosecutions Office's functions must be carried out without interference, and the government generally respected the law in practice.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
Arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice. A judge's authorization is required for any official interference in these areas. Any evidence obtained by means of wrongful interference in private life, home, correspondence, or telecommunications without the consent of the concerned person may not be used in court.
Respect for civil liberties
Freedom of speech and press
The law provides for freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice and did not restrict academic freedom. Local law also protects a citizen's right to petition the government and the legislature.
The print media included eight Chinese-language dailies, three Portuguese-language dailies, one Portuguese-language weekly, and six Chinese-language weeklies. There were three television networks: Two broadcast in Mandarin, and the other included a mix of Portuguese, English, and Cantonese programming. Macau Radio broadcast in both Portuguese and Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin). Hong Kong and international newspapers were widely available. The dominant newspapers, mainly Chinese-language, supported PRC government positions in their editorial line, while some of the Portuguese-language press published articles critical of mainland policies, such as those regarding Tibet and Falun Gong. The Union for Democracy Development Macau (UDDM), a nongovernmental organization (NGO) headed by pro-democracy legislators, charged that newspapers did not give equal attention to liberal and pro-democracy voices. At least three leading daily newspapers and a leading Hong Kong daily newspaper sold in the SAR provided extensive coverage of pro-democracy activities. The press regularly published articles critical of the government, with opinion columns often directly criticizing government officials.
Article 23 of the Basic Law obliges the SAR to enact legislation that would forbid any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the PRC government; theft of state secrets; or links to foreign political organizations harmful to national security. At year's end, the government had not enacted any such legislation. The Portuguese law dealing with crimes against state security became null and void after the handover, and no new law has replaced it.
There were no government-imposed limits on Internet access.
Freedom of peaceful assembly and association
The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right in practice. Under local law, individuals and groups intending to hold peaceful meetings or demonstrations in public places are required to notify the president of the relevant municipal council in writing at least three days, but no more than two weeks, in advance of the event. No prior authorization is necessary for the event to take place. Local law also provides criminal penalties for government officials who unlawfully impede or attempt to impede the right of assembly and for counter-demonstrators who interfere in meetings or demonstrations.
The law provides for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this right in practice. The law neither provides for, nor prohibits establishment of, political parties. Under the Societies Ordinance, persons can establish "political organizations." Several such organizations existed, including the pro-democracy New Democratic Macau Society, headed by a legislator. Civic associations and candidates' committees may present candidates for geographic and functional constituencies (see Section 3). Article 23 of the Basic Law obliges the SAR to enact laws to prohibit foreign political organizations from establishing ties with domestic political organizations or bodies. At year's end, the government had not enacted such legislation.
Falun Gong practitioners were allowed to continue their exercises and demonstrations in public parks.
Freedom of religion
The Basic Law provides for freedom of conscience and religious belief, as well as freedom to preach and to conduct and participate in religious activities, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. The Freedom of Religion Ordinance provides for freedom of religion, privacy of religious belief, freedom of religious assembly, freedom to hold religious processions, and freedom of religious education. There is no state religion.
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2004 International Religious Freedom Report.
Freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation
The law provides for these rights, and the government generally respected them in practice. Approximately 100,000 residents held Portuguese European Union passports, and an increasing number held SAR passports that allowed visa-free entry to many countries, including EU member states. Most residents also held special permits that allowed travel to and from the mainland. There was a separate pass for travel to and from Hong Kong.
The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol. In practice, the government granted refugee status or asylum and provided protection against refoulement, the return of persons to a country where they feared prosecution. The Migration Department cooperated with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in handling refugees. As of November, there were no refugee cases.
In 2002, the SAR enacted the Internal Security Legal Framework, which allows the government to refuse entry or expel any nonresident considered inadmissible or constituting a threat to internal security, or suspected of having a relationship with transnational crime or terrorism. During the year, no person was refused entry based on suspicion of having a connection to terrorism; 131 persons were refused entry based on suspicion of having a relationship with transnational crime; and 4,465 persons were refused entry for internal security reasons, primarily for violations of immigration law. However Hong Kong democratic activists has also been refused entry for internal security reasons.
During the year, 317 illegal migrants and 4,660 overstayers were returned to the mainland.
The Basic Law prohibits forced exile by guaranteeing the right of permanent residents to leave and enter the SAR, and the government respected the law.
Respect for political rights: The right of citizens to change their government
The Basic Law restricts citizens' ability to change their government. The government is led by a chief executive, chosen by a 300-member election committee, which in turn is chosen by a 100-member preparatory committee, composed of 60 SAR and 40 mainland representatives appointed by the NPC.
An election law enacted in April expanded the number of election committee members from 200 to 300, but it did not otherwise move the SAR closer to universal suffrage. A pro-democracy legislator refused a seat on the election committee after his efforts failed to widen further its membership.
In August, Chief Executive Edmund Ho was re-elected to a second five-year term with 296 of the 300 election committee votes.
The Legislative Assembly, elected in 2001, is composed of 27 members: ten elected directly from geographical constituencies; ten elected indirectly by local community interests such as business, labor, professional, welfare, cultural, educational, and sports associations; and seven appointed by the Chief Executive. Legislative elections are held every four years, and the Basic Law stipulates that the number of legislators is to increase gradually in subsequent elections. After 2009, the rules regarding the Assembly's composition may be altered by a two-thirds majority of the total membership and with the approval of the Chief Executive, who has veto power. The Basic Law does not provide for universal suffrage or for direct election of either the legislature or the Chief Executive.
There are limits on the types of legislation that legislators may introduce. The Basic Law stipulates that legislators may not initiate legislation related to public expenditure, the SAR's political structure, or the operation of the Government. Bills relating to government policies must receive the Chief Executive's written approval before they are submitted.
A ten-member Executive Council functions as an unofficial cabinet, approving all draft legislation before it is presented in the Legislative Assembly.
In 2000, the legislature passed a law reconstituting the pre handover High Commission Against Corruption as the Commission Against Corruption (CAC). The CAC investigates public-sector corruption and has the power to arrest and detain suspects. From January to October, the CAC received 804 complaints against public officials in a variety of agencies. The CAC opened 68 files, of which 67 were criminal cases and one was an administrative grievance. The CAC transferred eight cases to the Public Prosecutions Office. A monitoring body established to review complaints of maladministration or abuse by the CAC received no complaints from January through October.
The executive branch published online, in both Chinese and Portuguese, an extensive amount of information including laws, regulations, ordinances, government policies and procedures, and biographies of government officials. The Government also issued a daily press release on topics of public concern. However, the information provided by the legislature was less extensive. For example, it did not publish a legislative agenda or a list of pending bills.
Five of the 27 Legislative Assembly members (three directly elected, one indirectly elected, and one appointed), including the President of the Assembly, were women. Women held a number of senior positions throughout the government.
Governmental attitude regarding international and nongovernmental investigation of alleged violations of human rights
Domestic human rights groups functioned without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights. Local human rights groups, such as the Macau Association for the Rights of Laborers and the New Democratic Macau Association, continued to operate.
Discrimination, societal abuses, and trafficking in persons
The Basic Law stipulates that residents shall be free from discrimination, irrespective of their nationality, descent, race, sex, language, religion, political persuasion, ideological belief, educational level, economic status, or social condition, and the government effectively enforced the law. In addition, many local laws carry specific prohibitions against discrimination. For example, under the law that establishes the general framework for the educational system, access to education is stipulated for all residents regardless of race, religious belief, or political or ideological convictions.
The government effectively enforced criminal statutes, prohibiting domestic violence and prosecuted violators. Domestic violence is punishable by one to 15 years in prison. In the case of spousal abuse and violence against minors, the penalty is two to eight years' imprisonment, and five to 15 years if the abuse leads to the death of the victim.
The government provided hospital treatment for victims of abuse, and medical social workers counseled victims and informed them about social welfare services. The government may provide victims of domestic violence with public housing until their complaints are resolved, but it did not reserve facilities expressly for this purpose.
Private and religious groups sponsored programs for victims of domestic violence, and the government supported and helped to fund these organizations and programs. The Bureau for Family Action, a government organization subordinate to the Department of Family and Community of the Social Welfare Institute, helped female victims of domestic violence by providing a safe place for them and their children and furnishing advice regarding legal actions against the perpetrators. A family counseling service was available to persons who requested such services at social centers. Two government-supported religious programs also offered rehabilitation programs for female victims of violence. From January to October, 13 cases of spousal abuse and ten cases of family violence were reported to the Social Welfare Institute. The law on rape covers spousal rape. From January to October, there were 13 reported rapes.
There is no law specifically addressing sexual harassment, although there is a law prohibiting harassment in general.
Equal opportunity legislation applicable to all public and private organizations mandates that women receive equal pay for equal work, prohibits discrimination based on sex or physical ability, and establishes penalties for employers who violate these guidelines. The law allows for civil suits, but few women took their cases to the Labor Affairs Bureau or other entities. There were no cases alleging sexual discrimination during the year.
Women held a number of senior positions in the government. The Chairperson of the Legislative Assembly, the Secretary for Justice and Administration on the Executive Council, and the Commissioner for Audit were women. In September, seven women were among ten newly appointed judges and public prosecutors. Women also have become more active and visible in business. However, wage discrimination occurred in certain sectors of the job market, notably construction.
The government protected the rights and welfare of children through the general framework of civil and political rights legislation that protects all citizens. For example, the Criminal Code provides for criminal punishment for sexual abuse of children and students, statutory rape, and procuring that involves minors.
School attendance is compulsory for all children between ages five and 15. Basic education was provided in government-run schools and subsidized private schools, and it covered the preprimary year, primary education, and general secondary school education. The Education Department provided assistance to families that could not pay school fees. The children of illegal immigrants were excluded from the educational system. Experts believed that only a few children were affected by this exclusion. The government provided free medical care for all children. Child abuse and exploitation were not widespread problems. From January to October, seven cases of child abuse were reported to the Social Welfare Institute. During the same period, 120 cases of offenses against the physical integrity of minors, including ten cases of family violence, were reported to the Office for Security Coordination. From January to October, the government received two reports of rape of minors and five reports of sexual abuse of minors.
Trafficking in persons
The Law on Organized Crime makes trafficking in persons a crime punishable by two to eight years in prison, and the government effectively enforced the law. The law increases this penalty by one-third (within minimum and maximum limits) if the victim is under 18 years of age. If the victim is under 14 years of age, the penalty is increased by five to 15 years. If the trafficker rapes the victim, the two offenses are treated as different crimes.
Prostitution is not a crime, but living off the proceeds of prostitution is illegal. Prostitutes primarily were from Russia, mainland China, and Vietnam. While most were believed to be witting participants in the commercial sex industry, 17 women complained of being brought to the SAR under false pretenses and five complained of abuse.
There were no government assistance programs in place for victims of trafficking. There were no local NGOs specifically dealing with the problem of trafficking; however, there were charitable organizations that provided assistance and shelter to women and children who were the victims of abuse.
Persons with disabilities
There were no reports of discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, or provision of state services. The law mandates access to buildings for persons with disabilities, and the government generally enforced these provisions in practice.
The Social Welfare Institute provided financial and rehabilitation assistance to persons with disabilities, and it helped fund 24 rehabilitation facilities and 11 rehabilitation associations. These services included day centers, preschool training and education centers, vocational training and employment centers, and rehabilitation bus service. Other special programs helped persons with physical and mental disabilities gain better access to employment, education, and public facilities. For facilities that received financial support, approximately 80 percent of their income came from the government. In 2003, the government provided approximately $3.3 million (25.4 million patacas) in subsidies to such facilities and programs. During the year, 37 NGOs provided services for persons with disabilities and received regular assistance from the Social Welfare Institute and subsidies from other governmental departments. During the 2003-04 school year, 14 schools had programs for persons with disabilities and provided special education programs for 724 students with disabilities.
The law mandates accessibility for persons with reduced mobility to public administration buildings, buildings open to the public, collective dwellings, and pavements. The government's Social Security fund may grant subsidies for the elimination of architectural barriers to facilitate access by persons with a physical or behavioral disability. Many sidewalks and public buildings have been modified to comply with the law.
Although no specific laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of racial or ethnic background, the government generally respected the rights of ethnic minorities, particularly the Macanese (Eurasians who comprise approximately two percent of the population). Although Portuguese officials no longer dominated the civil service, the government bureaucracy and the legal system placed a premium on knowledge of the Portuguese language, which was spoken by approximately two percent of the population. The Cantonese language has official status and the use of Cantonese in the civil service has grown in recent years.
The right of association
The law provides for the right of workers to form and join unions of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirement, and the government generally respected this right in practice. The Basic Law stipulates that international labor conventions that applied before the handover are to remain in force and are implemented through the laws of the SAR. The UDDM has expressed concern that local law contains no explicit provisions that bar discrimination against unions. The law also specifically excludes public servants and migrant workers from labor law protections.
Nearly all private sector unions were part of the pro China Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), and they tended to stress the importance of stability and minimum disruption of the work force. The UDDM and some local journalists claimed that the FTU was more interested in providing social and recreational services than in addressing trade union issues such as wages, benefits, and working conditions. At year's end, there were 173 registered independent trade unions, including three new unions that registered during the year. All classes of workers have the right to join a union. At year's end, approximately 79 percent of public sector employees were members of a union. There was no data on private sector unionization.
The right to organize and bargain collectively
The law provides that agreements concluded between employers and workers shall be valid, but there is no specific statutory protection that provides for the right to collective bargaining; however, the government did not impede or discourage collective bargaining. Market forces determined wages. Unions tended to resemble local traditional neighborhood associations, promoting social and cultural activities rather than workplace issues. Local customs normally favored employment without the benefit of written labor contracts, except in the case of migrant labor from the mainland and the Philippines. Pro-PRC unions traditionally have not attempted to engage in collective bargaining.
There is no specific protection in local law from retribution if workers exercise their right to strike. The government has argued that striking employees are protected from retaliation by labor law provisions that require an employer to have "justified cause" to dismiss an employee, and the government generally enforced these provisions. Strikes, rallies, and demonstrations are not permitted in the vicinity of the Chief Executive's office, the Legislative Assembly, and other key government buildings. There were no reports of labor protests, strikes, or work stoppages during the year.
Workers who believe that they have been dismissed unlawfully may bring a case to court or lodge a complaint with the Labor Department or the High Commissioner against Corruption and Administrative Illegality, who also functions as an ombudsman.
There are no export processing zones.
Prohibition of forced or compulsory labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and there were no reports that such practices occurred.
Prohibition of child labor and minimum age for employment
The law prohibits minors under the age of 16 from working, although minors between the ages of 14 and 16 can be authorized to work on an "exceptional basis." Some children reportedly worked in family-run businesses and on fishing vessels, usually during summer and winter vacations. Local laws do not establish specific regulations governing the number of hours these children can work, but International Labour Organization conventions are applied. The Labor Department enforced the law through periodic and targeted inspections, and violators were prosecuted. The Labor Department Inspectorate did not conduct inspections specifically aimed at enforcing child labor laws, but it would issue summonses when such violations were discovered in the course of other workplace inspections. No violations of child labor laws were reported during the year.
Acceptable conditions of work
Local labor laws establish the general principle of fair wages and mandate compliance with wage agreements, but there is no mandatory minimum wage. Average wages provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family. There were no publicly administered social security programs, but some large companies provided private welfare and security packages.
Labor legislation provides for a 48-hour workweek, an eight-hour workday, paid overtime, annual leave, and medical and maternity care. Although the law provides for a 24-hour rest period for every seven days of work, workers frequently agreed to work overtime to compensate for low wages. The Labor Department provided assistance and legal advice to workers on request.
The Labor Department enforced occupational safety and health regulations, and failure to correct infractions could lead to prosecution. During the year, the Labor Department inspectorate conducted 1,835 inspections and uncovered 2,761 violations carrying fines worth $191,000 (1.479 million patacas). There were two work related deaths during the first half of the year. Although the law includes a requirement that employers provide a safe working environment, no explicit provisions protect employees' right to continued employment if they refuse to work under dangerous conditions.
Migrant workers, primarily from the PRC, made up approximately nine percent of the work force. They often received less than local residents for performing the same job, lived in controlled dormitories, worked ten to 12 hours per day, and owed large sums of money to labor-importing companies for purchasing their jobs. They had no collective bargaining rights and no legal recourse in the case of unfair dismissal.
- Taipei Times. "Macau bars ‘Long Hair,’ four activists". Macau Times. Retrieved 16 March 2009.
- 2004 Report on Human Rights in Macau SAR - U.S. State Department
- 2005 Report on Press Freedom in Macau - International Press Institute