The Macau government is preparing a hardline, Hong Kong-style upgrade of national security legislation with extra-territorial jurisdiction that criminalises individuals in Macau and overseas with links to foreign “threats”.
Security secretary Wong Sio Chak told a press conference on Monday (August 22) that the amendments are open for public feedback until October 5, after which debate is expected in the Legislative Assembly in November.
The amendments expand the range of criminal offences to include individuals who “instigate or support sedition”, even if those individuals play no role in subsequent acts of treason or other national security breaches.
Wong said the law must be upgraded to meet the same standard as mainland China and Hong Kong.
According to Hong Kong Democracy Council data, Hong Kong has prosecuted and jailed more than 1,000 suspects, including journalists and elected representatives, since its own upgrades came into force. These actions have alarmed governments, business groups and human rights advocates around the globe and triggered US sanctions on prominent Hong Kong officials.
The Macau amendments will expand police detection powers and widen the definition of subversion from violent activity to “non-violent methods”, Wong said, adding that certain forms of non-violent but disruptive protest could fall under this category.
The Macau News Agency online newspaper reported Wong as saying that the government is not concerned about the impact of the changes on business confidence, a problem that is becoming more pronounced in Hong Kong as expatriate workers and foreign companies leave the territory.
“If there is no national security, there is no social stability and no economic development,” Wong said in remarks translated from Cantonese.
“The national security of the country — and thus the security and stability of Macau — is the major prerequisite for the Macau economy to keep moving forward,” he said.
Unlike Hong Kong, Macau has experienced very little disruptive protest action since the handover from Portuguese rule in 1999, with the great majority of protests targeting casinos and other companies rather than the government.
In light of severe social and political disruption in Hong Kong, however, Wong said the Macau amendments will serve as a “preventive” mechanism.
The upgraded law will therefore apply globally to any individual or organisation implicated in national security breaches, he said.
Wong was not forthcoming when asked at the press conference to provide evidence of actionable foreign interference that he alleged has already taken place in Macau.
“It is intelligence, so it is a secret. I know about it but I can’t tell you,” he said.
“As long as you don’t do anything jeopardising national security, you are fine … [and you] should have a pretty good idea of what you are doing.”
Macau’s gaming industry continues to reel under the combined pressures of coronavirus pandemic damage, low visitation and Chinese government scrutiny of high-roller activity, backed by all-but-crushing new regulations for junkets.
Casino operators are loath to comment on sensitive issues such as national security provisions other than praising their implementation.
But VIXIO GamblingCompliance sources suggest that damage from the poor mood in the city, the government’s refusal to process foreign employee work visas and the departure of some of Macau’s most passionate industry supporters can only be worsened with the introduction of authoritarian security rules.