|Beijing slams Macau's democracy vote
Beijing has slammed an unofficial referendum on electoral reform to be held in the gambling mecca of Macau, local media said Thursday, after almost 800,000 turned out for a similar poll in Hong Kong.
The former Portuguese colony returned to Chinese rule in 1999 and has a separate legal system from the mainland. Like Hong Kong, Macau's leader is known as its chief executive and is chosen by a pro-Beijing electoral committee.
A statement from Beijing's liaison office in Macau said the enclave had no authority'' to hold the poll, which organizers said was part of a fight to establish a democratic system.
"An administrative region has no authority to establish a system of referendum or organize any activity relating to referendum,'' a report in the Macau Daily Times cited the statement as saying Thursday.
Macau's poll is slated to run between August 24 and August 30 -- just ahead of the naming of the enclave's new leader on August 31 -- and activists are hoping for a turnout of 10,000 in the city of 550,000.
Questions include whether there should be universal suffrage for the 2019 chief executive elections and how confident voters are in sole candidate Fernando Chui, who has been in the position since 2009.
Macau government spokesperson Alexis Tam described the poll as "illegal'' and "invalid'', the paper said, in echoes of Beijing's criticism of Hong Kong's recent unofficial referendum.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also described his city's poll as a "so-called referendum'' with no legal foundation.
In May around 20,000 people in Macau marched against a bill to allow government ministers' generous retirement packages.
"Macau citizens were long considered apathetic to politics, but the big protest in May changed everything, with more young people and Macau citizens taking to the streets without fear,'' poll organizer Jason Chao said. --AFP