Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday praised Macau as being a successful model for spreading patriotism among citizens, adding that its people have “chosen unity and compromise over arguments and infighting.”

Xi was speaking on the second day of his three-day trip to the former Portuguese colony, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule on Friday. His comments came as neighbouring Hong Kong entered its seventh month of protests against Beijing’s encroachment, alongside calls for democratic reform and other demands.

Xi jinping macau
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking in Macau. Photo: CCTV screenshot.

“Loving the motherland and loving Macau has become a core value in the whole society,” Xi said at a dinner gala. “The government and the general public understand that Macau’s fate and prospects are tied to that of the motherland.”

Macau has showcased the successes of the “One Country, Two Systems” constitutional order, Xi said, adding that the people of Macau have a “strong sense of national identity and patriotism.”

Xi praised Macau’s educational system, saying that schools have focused on teaching the national flag and anthem. He also commended the city for passing a national security law in 2009 – a task which Hong Kong has not yet fulfilled. An attempt to implement Article 23 legislation in 2003 triggered mass protests, prompting the Hong Kong government to axe the controversial proposal.

The people of Macau have “chosen unity and compromise over arguments and infighting, and self-consciously rejected all forms of outside interference,” Xi said.

macau casino
File Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

China’s president also visited a secondary school in Taipa on Thursday and was greeted by enthusiastic students and staff. One student told reporters afterwards that when he shook hands with Xi, he felt “a surge of warmth spreading throughout his whole body.”

Another student said she felt she could “live a life without regrets” after waving at China’s leader from afar.

On Friday, Xi will preside over the inauguration of Macau’s new leader Ho Iat-seng – the fifth chief executive since the handover – before returning to Beijing.

Activist ‘harassed’

Separately, Macau activist Kam Sut-leng said that she had been followed and harassed by people who she suspected of being national security agents deployed while Xi was in town.

Kam, who has led the New Macau Association since 2017, said that five to six men were seen loitering outside her organisation’s office, and took photos of the people coming in and out.

In a statement, Kam also recalled being tailed by two motorcycles and verbally harassed, which made her afraid of returning home.

“Macau is an example of the white terror that comes under ‘One Country, Two Systems,’” she wrote. “Nobody is more obedient than Macau people, but the intimidation and surveillance [by the Chinese government] has become even more blatant.”

The New Macau Association also issued a statement on Wednesday calling on the Macau government to protect freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

kam sut-leng
Kam Sut-leng (centre) of the New Macau Association. Photo: New Macau Association, via Facebook.

“Recently, there have been reports that multiple local journalists being harassed, warned and threatened by unidentified people. Some journalists from Portugal and Hong Kong have been unreasonably barred from entering Macau. The police have also asked journalists to unlock their phone for inspection,” it said.

“The NMA expresses strong concern over the incidents and condemns any act against the freedom of the press.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Macau turned away multiple Hong Kong journalists, including those from Apple Daily, NowTV, Commercial Radio, RTHK, SCMP and TVB.

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.