Top Macau Lawyer Warns Judiciary In 'Subservient' Decline

October 25, 2021
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The long-time head of Macau’s lawyers association has publicly attacked creeping politicisation of the casino hub’s judiciary, warning of damage from magistrates who “tout” patriotism.

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The long-time head of Macau’s lawyers association has publicly attacked creeping politicisation of the casino hub’s judiciary, warning of damage from magistrates who “tout” patriotism.

Macau Lawyers Association president Jorge Valente said last Wednesday after an opening ceremony for the judicial year that judicial officers should not be “subservient” to government.

“I am concerned when I hear some magistrates saying they have the obligation to safeguard the state and national security,” the Macau News Agency quoted Valente as saying.

“For me, magistrates have the obligation to uphold the law, nothing more, even if [that] goes against a government point of view.

“An individual that is subservient to the state is not a magistrate.”

Valente, a long-time advisor to Galaxy Entertainment Group and managing director of its concession-holding subsidiary, added that he and others are at a loss as to the recent functioning of the judiciary.

People do “not understand how the courts operate and how justice is carried out by them”, he said.

Valente also lamented an increasing “erosion of critical thinking”, conformism and silence of dissent in the judiciary and elsewhere in Macau society, as officials seek to demonstrate patriotism to Beijing.

“We need smart and talented, forward-thinking patriots, able to work for the common good and for the realisation of social justice,” he said.

“Not just those who, with subservience and short-sightedness, insistently tout their patriotism to get noticed and gain advantages for themselves.”

Unlike other speakers at the event, including public prosecutor General Ip Son Sang, Valente did not invoke national security and sovereignty or imply that the maintenance of Chinese Communist Party power is the basic responsibility of Macau’s judges.

He instead called on the judiciary to focus on serving the people of Macau and community needs.

“Those who delight in self-satisfaction do not progress,” he said.

“Justice is not an abstraction. For social harmony and peace, it is essential that real justice is felt and understood by society.”

Industry heavyweight Valente has previously warned of the politicisation of Macau’s judiciary, in 2019 criticising recently introduced blocks on Portuguese judges from hearing national security cases and warning of the “terrible signal” this would send.

Valente criticised the “Greater Bay Area” campaign, a key Beijing machination to integrate the economies of the Pearl River Delta, as a threat to Macau’s identity and integrity as a legal structure.

He has also expressed support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and labelled Beijing’s accusations of foreign forces stirring up trouble there as an “insult” and “preposterous”.

Legal and other professionals in Hong Kong who have expressed similar dissenting views have been targeted by the Chinese-language media and potentially face investigation under draconian National Security Law provisions.

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