While Hong Kong protests for more independence, China smiles on Macau

spreading american values
The Venetian Hotel in Macau.
spreading american values
The Venetian Hotel in Macau. (Störfix, CC BY-SA 3.0 de)

In December while commemorating the 20th anniversary of Portugal handing over Macau to China, President Xi Jinping drew sharp contrasts between Macau and China’s other Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong.

“Xi praised the gambling hub for being one of the safest cities in the world, where people ‘rationally’ express different views,” Reuters reported.

For six months, people in Hong Kong have been protesting in an escalating struggle for autonomy and human rights.

In Macau, people are … not.

And Xi is holding up Macau as an example.

Macau “is being primed by President Xi Jinping to become a financial centre, a move seen by Macau’s officials and executives as a reward for having avoided the anti-government protests that have gripped nearby Hong Kong over the past six months,” Al Jazeera reported earlier in December:

While the new initiatives were not explicitly linked to toeing the official line, Chinese officials have repeatedly praised Macau for setting an example in maintaining national security and adhering to the central government’s requirements.

“This is the candy that Hong Kong did not want,” said Larry So, a political commentator and retired Macau university professor. “It is a gift for Macau, for Macau being a good boy.”

MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, and Las Vegas Sands Corp., along with three Chinese companies, have casinos in Macau, where gambling accounts for 80 percent of government revenue, according to Bloomberg:

Macau’s charter broadly resembles Hong Kong’s, but lacks key provisions such as the goal of selecting the city’s leader “by universal suffrage.” Incoming Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng … was chosen by 98% of the votes cast by a 400-member election committee….

“The messaging is clear to Hong Kong and the rest of the world, but primarily to Hong Kong — there is a way out, there is an easy and good way out, and it’s called Macau,” said Steve Tsang, director of the University of London’s SOAS China Institute and author of “A Modern History of Hong Kong.”. “But what they completely and utterly fail to see, is that if Macau is the future, most people in Hong Kong will say, thank you very much, you can keep it for yourself.”

The Bloomberg report also notes that gambling’s status as Macau’s dominant industry has “prompted criticism, due in part to the criminal activity it has fostered, from loan-sharking and money-laundering to triad fights and prostitution.”

The tax rate on gambling revenue in Macau is 35 percent. In Nevada, it’s 6.75 percent.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson has been writing about Nevada policy and politics for more than 20 years. He was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and wrote the then-groundbreaking Las Vegas Gleaner, which among other things was the only independent political blog from Nevada that was credentialed at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He spent a few years as a senior energy and environmental policy analyst for Public Citizen, and has occasionally worked as a consultant on mining, taxation, education and other issues for Nevada labor and public interest organizations. His freelance work has been published in outlets ranging from the Guardian to Desert Companion to In These Times to the Oil & Gas Journal. For several years he also taught U.S. History courses at UNLV. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and then assistant managing editor at the Casper Star-Tribune, Wyoming’s largest newspaper.