Macau lawmaker Sulu Sou could be suspended from his position after he was charged with participating in a protest earlier this year.

Should the legislative assembly act, it will be the first ever case of a lawmaker being suspended over a criminal charge since the city’s 1999 handover from Portugal to China. If he is then jailed for more than 30 days, he could face disqualification as a legislator.

Sou, 26, of the pro-democracy New Macau Association, is the youngest ever lawmaker to be elected, after he secured 9,212 vote in September.

Sulu Sou
Sulu Sou. Photo: Facebook.

According to the rules of the Macaunese legislature, the prosecution of any offences allegedly committed by a lawmaker – which are punishable by up to three years in jail – can only proceed with its authorisation. Otherwise, the criminal proceedings must be suspended until the end of the lawmaker’s term.

“I fully respect the established procedure of the Assembly and the Court,” Sou said in a statement. “However, it must be stressed that we do not agree and plead guilty to the charges of aggravated disobedience.”

“We were expressing opinions about [an] important public interest in accordance with the law. Yet, we face abusive prosecution by the authority. It is clearly a violation of the civil rights entitled by the Basic Law.”

‘Aggravated disobedience’

In May last year, Sou and others protested at Chief Executive Fernando Chui’s residence over the Macau Foundation’s decision to donate RMB 100 million (HK$117 million) to Jinan University in Guangzhou. Both the university, and the semi-official foundation, are linked to Chui. Police demanded the protesters leave, but they folded protest letters in the form of planes and threw them over the fence of the residence, before they left peacefully.

Then in March this year, Sou and activist Scott Chiang – then-president of the New Macau Association – were charged with “aggravated disobedience,” which is punishable with imprisonment of up to two years. The trial will start on November 28.

Sulu Sou Fernando Chui
Sulu Sou protesting outside Macau chief executive Fernando Chui’s residence. Photo: Facebook.

The legislature received the court’s request on November 7. The Committee of House Rules will hold a meeting on Thursday to review it, and opinions may be submitted to the general assembly before next Monday. Then, if more than half of all lawmakers vote against him in a secret ballot, Sou will be suspended and go to trial.

The Macanese police issued a statement saying that Sou had yet to announce whether he would run for the legislature during the protest in May last year, thus the enforcement of the law at the time was completely unrelated to his current lawmaker status.

Sou asked the public to retain their confidence in Chiang and him.

“I will firmly continue to fulfil my duty as an elected lawmaker to debate bills, monitor the government and voice out for justice, just as what I have been doing in the last 28 days. I will defend the dignity of a representative of the people and resist to the abuse of power by the authority.”

Macau Legislative Assembly
Macau’s Legislative Assembly. Photo: Macau government.

Veteran lawmaker Au Kam San is the sole pro-democracy figure in the seven-member Committee of House Rules. He told Apple Daily that it will be difficult to predict the result of the final secret ballot: “Of course I oppose [the suspension], but the majority of the legislature is of the pro-establishment camp.”

Another pro-democracy lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong told the newspaper that it was a rare situation: “Did someone from Hong Kong teach this? It’s quite ridiculous.”

He said it could amount to political suppression: “If someone gives an order [to suspend Sou], the pro-establishment camp will follow.”

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.