Macau’s youngest lawmaker Sulu Sou has been suspended from his position after he was charged with participating in a protest earlier last year.

It is the first ever case of a lawmaker being suspended over a criminal charge since the city’s 1999 handover from Portugal to China. If Sou, 26, is then jailed for more than 30 days, he could face disqualification as a legislator.

Macau’s 33-member Legislative Assembly suspended him with 28 “yes” votes and 4 votes against. The pro-Beijing camp, which supported the motion, controls most of the legislature.

Sulu Sou
Sulu Sou. Photo: Sulu Sou.

Sou, of the pro-democracy New Macau Association, was elected with more than 9,000 votes in September. His tenure lasted only 48 days.

According to the rules of the Macanese 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, criminal proceedings must be suspended until the end of the lawmaker’s term.

He said it was a regretful result. “Promise me: do not give up, keep fighting,” he said on social media after the vote.

During the meeting on Monday, he was not allowed to make a speech or vote. He was only allowed to give responses to lawmakers’ questions.

He said his case did not involve corruption, breach of duty, organised crime or harm to public interest, but related to demands to reform the Macau Foundation’s funding system, thus he hoped lawmakers would consider the case carefully.

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

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.

Sou said although he did not agree with the legitimacy of the police order, he left a few seconds after the police gave the final warning. He also said an event whereby one handed protest letters did not require prior approval.

“We chose to abide, but not oppose or violate [the order],” he said on Monday.

Legislative Assembly President Ho Iat Seng said Sou’s power to make laws and monitor the government will be suspended, but he will keep his wages and rights including medical privileges and the freedom to enter the legislature.

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.