Isabel Santos

Portugal has “inalienable responsibility” for Macau – Euro MP 

Must question human rights situation in territory during Macau leader’s visit

Portuguese Euro MP Isabel Santos has said that Portugal has an “inalienable responsibility” for Macau and “must question the situation of human rights within the territory” when Macau’s leader visits Portugal next week.

Ho Iat Seng, the executive president of the special administrative region formerly leased to Portugal, is due to arrive in Portugal on Tuesday.

Anticipating the visit, Y Ping Chow – the leader of Portugal’s Chinese community – acknowledged that the transition for Chinese living in Macau to the ways of China can be “something very difficult”, but he suggested “they get used, for better or worse”. Talk of freedom and human rights “is very beautiful”, he told Lusa, but “what I can say is that if a person is subject to insecurity, hunger etc., all that becomes secondary”.

Isabel Santos has a very different outlook. She tells Lusa she believes Portugal has made a commitment to ensure that freedoms, rights and guarantees enshrined in the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration of April 13 1987 are defended.

It was this declaration that resulted in the transfer of Macau’s sovereignty to China on 20 December 1999. In other words, Portugal was ‘complicit’ with events – and bears responsibility.

As Ms Santos explains, “in recent years there has been a progression towards increasingly limiting the rights and freedoms of citizens in the territory of Macau and this cannot be acceptable because these rights and freedoms are enshrined in that declaration which then serves as the basis for the Basic Law” of Macau, which is also considered to be the “mini-constitution” of this Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR)”.

Another question Portugal should ask Ho Iat Seng when he is here relates to Macau’s national security law, which for Isabel Santos is legislation that is “in every way similar” to that of the Hong Kong SAR.

In her view, this legislation “represses freedoms” and “we cannot close our eyes to this“.

“In the last few years all that has happened (in Macau) has been the disqualification of pro-democracy candidates, the complete and total ban on vigils held for many years in memory of the victims of the Tiananmen massacre. They were even deemed illegal, with retroactive effect, which is something absolutely astonishing,” she explains.

We cannot be complacent when we see certain types of authoritarian advances that limit citizens’ freedoms”.

Regarding Ho Iat Seng’s intentions for this official visit to Portugal – the first he has made outside Chinese territory – Isabel Santos warns that “if former Portuguese colonies are a target”, one has to be aware of the Chinese attitude in Africa, where, she says, “it has entered in a bilateral manner and in a very predatory way”.

Isabel Santos equally recalls the ongoing detention of Portuguese Chinese citizens in Hong Kong, arrested under the national security law there.

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