Politics of Macau

In accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, Macau has special administrative region status, which provides constitutional guarantees for implementing the policy of "one country, two systems" and the constitutional basis for enacting the Basic Law of the Macau Special Administrative Region. Although geographically part of Guangdong Province, the Macau Special Administrative Region is directly under the authority of the central government of the People's Republic of China in Beijing, which controls the foreign affairs and defense of Macau but otherwise grants the region "a high degree of authority." The Basic Law took force upong handover of sovereignty from Portugal on December 20, 1999, and is to remain in effect for fifty years (that is, until 2049).

The Chief Executive of Macau is appointed by the People's Republic of China's central government after selection by an election committee, whose members are nominated by corporate bodies. The chief executive appears before a cabinet, the Executive Council, of between 7 and 11 members. The term of office of the chief executive is 5 years, and no individual may serve for more than two consecutive terms. The governor has strong policymaking and executive powers similar to those of a president. These powers are, however, limited from above by the central government in Beijing, to whom the governor reports directly, and from below (to a more limited extent) by the legislature.

In May 1999, Edmund Ho, a community leader and banker, is the first PRC-appointed chief executive of the Macau SAR, having replaced General de Rocha Viera on December 20, 1999. He was elected by the 200-member Chief Executive Selection Committee. Ho, born in Macau in 1955, was the first Chinese person to govern the region since the 1550s. Prior to December 20, 1999, Ho nominated major officials in the new government and carried out other transfer tasks. The executive branch of the Macau government has the following cabinet departments, each headed by a secretary: Administration and Justice, Economic and Financial Affairs, Security, Social Affairs and Culture, and Transport and Public Works. There also are two commissions, Against Corruption and Audit, and a chief public prosecutor. Upon Macau's reversion to China, the executive offices were moved from Macau Government House temporarily to the Banco Tai Fung.

The legislative organ of the territory is the legislative Assembly, a 23-member body comprising eight directly elected members, eight appointed members representing functional constituencies and seven members appointed by the chief executive. The Legislative Assembly is responsible for general lawmaking, including taxation, the passing of the budget and socioeconomic legislation. In the last election, held in September 1996, pro-business groups won four of the eight directly elected seats, while pro-China parties dropped from four seats to three and the number of pro-democracy representatives fell from two seats to one. Unlike in Hong Kong, the legislature's term straddled the handover of sovereignty to the PRC, and has even been extended from its normal 4-year term until October 2001. The city of Macau and the islands of Taipa and Coloane each have a municipal council.

The Legislative Assembly is chaired by its president, industrialist Susana Chou, who is assisted by the vice president, lawyer Lau Cheok Va. It was relocated to a new building on Rua de Xangai, separate from the executive offices, in December 1999. The twenty-three-member assembly consists of eight members from direct elections, eight members from indirect elections, and seven members as appointed by the chief executive. With the exception of the current Legislative Assembly inaugurated on December 20, 1999, and whose members completed terms begun under the Portuguese administration, terms are for four years, with annual sessions running from October 15 to August 16. Standing committees perform the following functions: examination and issuance of reports and statements on projects and proposals of law, on resolutions and deliberations, and on proposals of alteration presented to the Legislative Assembly; examination of petitions submitted to the Legislative Assembly; voting on issues as approved in general by the Legislative Assembly General Meeting; and answering questions raised by the president or the General Meeting.

There also are two urban councils that have carried over from the colonial administration. One represents the Macau Peninsula and one represents Taipa and Coloane. Mayors were nominated by the Portuguese governor and are answerable to their respective executive committee and municipal assembly

The legal system is based largely on Portuguese law. The territory has its own independent judicial system, with a high court. Judges are selected by a committee and appointed by the chief executive. Foreign judges may serve on the courts. In July 1999 the chief executive appointed a seven-person committee to select judges for the SAR. Twenty-four judges were recommended by the committee and were then appointed by Mr. Ho. Included are three judges who serve on the Macau SAR's highest court, the Court of Final Appeal (CFA): 39-year-old Sam Hou Fai (who will be chief justice), 32-year-old Chu Kin, and the 46-year-old Viriato Manuel Pinhiero de Lima.

Macau's seven deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) are selected by an electoral conference; they attended their first session of the NPC in Beijing in March 2000. Previously, in December 1999, the NPC Standing Committee approved the membership of the NPC Committee for the Basic Law of the Macau Special Administrative Region, chaired by NPC Vice Chairman Qiao Xiaoyang, for a five-year term. Half of the ten members are from Macau, the others from mainland China. Macau also has representation on the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Political Parties:
Macau has no formal political parties. However, key groups representing the interests of business, labor, and social welfare are important. Those that participated in the September 1996 Legislative Assembly elections, the last to be held before Macau returned to China's sovereignty, were: União Promotora para o Progresso (UNIPRO, Union for Promoting Progress), Associação Promotora para a Economia de Macau (APPEM, Association for Promoting the Economy of Macau), União para o Desenvolvimento (UPD, Union for Development), Associação de Novo Macau Democrático (ANMD, New Democratic Macau Association), Convergência para o Desenvolvimento (CODEM, Convergence for Development), União Geral para o Desenvolvimento de Macau (UDM, General Union for the Development of Macau), Associação de Amizade (AMI, Friendship Association), Aliança para o Desenvolvimento da Economia (ADE, Alliance for the Development of the Economy), Associação dos Empregados e Assalariados (AEA, Employees and Wage-Earners Association), and Associação pela Democracia e Bem-Estar Social de Macau (ADBSM, Association for the Democracy and Social Well-Being of Macau). The APPEM won the most votes in the 1996 elections.

Foreign Affairs:
The central government in Beijing controls the foreign affairs of Macau. The Commission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened its office in Macau on December 20, 1999. A central government agency, the commission interacts with the Macau government in matters of foreign policy. It also processes applications from foreign nations and international organizations wishing to establish consulates or representative offices in Macau. Macau also is authorized to handle some external affairs on its own. These affairs include economic and cultural relations and agreements it concludes with states, regions, and international organizations. In such matters, Macau functions under the name "Macao, China." Macau displays the flag and national emblem of the People's Republic of China but is also authorized to display its own regional flag and emblem. Taiwanese organizations in Macau are allowed to continue operations and are required to abide by the Basic Law.

International Organizations:
Macau belongs to the Customs Cooperation Council; the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (associate member); the International Maritime Organization; the International Criminal Police Organization (subbureau); the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization; the World Meteorological Organization; the World Tourism Organization (associate member); and the World Trade Organization.

Country name:
conventional long form: Macau Special Administrative Region
conventional short form: Macau
local long form: Aomen Tebie Xingzhengqu (Chinese); Regiao Administrativa Especial de Macau (Portuguese)
local short form: Aomen (Chinese); Macau (Portuguese)

Data code: MC

Dependency status: Special administrative region of the People's Republic of China

Government type: NA

Administrative divisions: none (special administrative region of the PRC)

Independence: none (special administrative region of the PRC)

National holiday: National Day, 1-2 October; note - 20 December 1999 is celebrated as Macau Special Administrative Region Establishment Day

Constitution: Basic Law, approved in March 1993 by the PRC National People's Congress, is Macau's "mini-constitution"

Legal system: based on Portuguese civil law system

Suffrage: direct election 18 years of age, universal for permanent residents living in Macau for the past seven years; indirect election limited to organizations registered as "corporate voters" (257 are currently registered) and a 300-member Election Committee drawn from broad regional groupings, municipal organizations, and central government bodies.

Executive branch:
chief of state: President of the PRC Hu Jintao (since March 2003)
head of government: Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah (since 20 December 1999)
cabinet: Executive Council consists of all five government secretaries, three legislators, and two businessmen
elections: NA

Legislative branch: Unicameral Legislative Council or LEGCO (23 seats; 8 elected by popular vote, 8 by indirect vote, and 7 appointed by the chief executive; members serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 22 September 1996 (next to be held by 15 October 2001)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - APPEM 2, UNIPRO 2, CODEM 1, UDM 1, UPD 1, ANMD 1

Judicial branch: The Court of Final Appeal in the Macau Special Administrative Region

Political parties and leaders: The following is a listing of those associations that participated in the last legislative elections:

  • Associacao de Novo Macau Democratico or ANMD (leader NA)
  • Associacao Promotora para a Economia de Macau or APPEM (leader NA)
  • Convergencia para o Desenvolvimento or CODEM (leader NA)
  • Uniao Geral para o Desenvolvimento de Macau or UDM (leader NA)
  • Uniao para o Desenvolvimento or UPD (leader NA)
  • Uniao Promotora para o Progresso or UNIPRO (leader NA)

note: There are no formal political parties, but civic associations are used instead

Political pressure groups and leaders:

  • Catholic Church (Domingos LAM, bishop)
  • Macau Society of Tourism and Entertainment or STDM (Stanley Ho, managing director)
  • Union for Democracy Development (Antonio NG Kuok-cheong, leader)

International organization participation: CCC, ESCAP (associate), International Maritime Organization (associate), Interpol (subbureau), UNESCO (associate), WMO, WToO (associate), WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US: none (special administrative region of the PRC)

Diplomatic representation from the US: the US has no offices in Macau, and US interests are monitored by the US Consulate General in Hong Kong


The flag of Macau is light green with a lotus flower above a stylized bridge and water in white, beneath an arc of five gold, five-pointed stars: one large in center of arc and four smaller.

See also : Politics of Hong Kong, Politics of China

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