Macau residents have complained of restricted freedom of movement as the authorities emptied streets to accommodate Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to the former Portuguese colony this week.

Li is visiting Macau for a three-day trade conference alongside the leaders of Portugal and Portuguese-speaking countries. Upon arrival on Monday, Li said he would like to “see more, walk more and hear more in order to experience the changes in Macau’s development, local culture, and the everyday life of Macau people” during his visit to the territory.

li keqiang macau chui sai on
Macau Chief Executive Chui Sai-on (left) and Secretary of Finance Lionel Leong presented Macau’s development plans to Li Keqiang (right).

But Macau residents complain that instead of allowing the public to interact with the Chinese premier, the Macau government has blocked off streets within the vicinity of Li’s route, including residential areas and tourist attractions.

During his half-hour visit to the Macau Tower on Monday, tourists were prevented from leaving or using the washrooms located outside the tower’s restaurant, Apple Daily reported.

The district of Penha Hill, home to the Xinzhuyuan Hotel where Li is staying, has also seen a heavy police presence, with officers stationed at every intersection and multiple cordons put in place. Residents have been prevented from parking on the streets and accessing some parks in the district, while restaurants have been told that outdoor seating is not allowed.

macau li keqiang
Photo: Macau Concealers.

Online media outlet Macau Concealers reported on Tuesday that during Li’s visit to Pui Ching Middle School, a student fell sick and needed medical help, but the ambulance could not immediately approach the area. Paramedics had to disembark to notify the school and check the student while leaving the ambulance at the entrance. The vehicle was allowed inside the school after Li’s fleet of cars left and the police re-opened the vicinity, according to the report.

Sulu Sou Ka-hou of the pro-democracy party New Macau Association criticised the Macanese authorities for emptying the streets in order to “create a picture of social stability and economic prosperity.” He said that Macau people were angry that Li’s visits to schools and public houses had disrupted their daily life.

macau li keqiang
Pui Ching Middle School. Photo: Macau Concealers.

Media access

Another online media outlet, All About Macau, said it had been denied access to most of the official events that are open to the press, despite being a registered media outlet recognised by the Government Information Bureau.

They questioned the government’s differential treatment towards mainstream and independent media. The media wrote: “Are the authorities afraid that the premier could tell we are reporters from an independent media outlet representing true public opinion when he sees us?”

It added that the Macau government had “completely gone against the ‘fair, just and transparent’ principle.”

macau li keqiang
Photo: Macau Concealers.


Several civil society groups also organised protests during Li’s visit, with issues ranging from protection of the interests of individual homeowners to cross-border family reunion.

Around a hundred protesters held a demonstration on Tuesday to demand the authorities give right of abode to mainland Chinese adults whose parents live in Macau. An organiser of the event told All About Macau that the high security had prevented people from approaching and showing Li the real side of Macau society.

macau li keqiang
Macau protesters demanded the right to cross-border family reunion on Tuesday. Photo: All About Macau.

‘Human rights violations’

New Macau Association accused the Macau government of undermining the rule of law and violating the fundamental rights of residents and visitors.

It cited a report from a Macau resident who was “coerced to stay at home,” as well as the denial of entry of Hongkongers to Macau over the past week, including the detainment of lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung on Monday.

“In the absence of concrete cases of organised crime or terrorism, a mere visit of Beijing officials shall never justify the deprivation of such freedom of movement,” the Association said in a statement.

It added that it will be creating a database of cases of entry denial by the Macau government, which will be made available to the relevant UN bodies when they review the ratification of human rights treaties in Macau.

Li will be leaving Macau on Wednesday after the conclusion of the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation Between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.