MACAU (Reuters) - About a thousand people marched through Macau’s streets on Sunday, urging the government to fight corruption and grant them more political freedom, as the territory marked its 10th anniversary under Chinese rule.
The protesters waved banners that called for universal suffrage in 2019 and chanted anti-corruption slogans hours after Chinese President Hu Jintao attended the swearing-in of the territory’s new chief executive, Fernando Chui.
“Now is the time to start again the timetable for democratic development for Macau,” Antonio Ng, a Macau legislator and one of the key organizers of the protest, told Reuters.
Chui earlier swore in his new cabinet, pledging to diversify the economy, heavily reliant on its gaming industry, into sectors such as logistics over the next five years.
Chui was hand-picked by the Chinese government to lead Macau, unlike Hong Kong, which held a contested chief executive election in 2007 and is inching toward universal suffrage in 2017.
Chinese leaders, who face challenges in corporate governance in Macau, also pledged better regulation of gambling in the territory, whose $15 billion casino industry overtook that of Las Vegas in late 2006.
“Over the next five years, we shall actively develop the appropriate diversification of the economy,” Chui said in a speech after being sworn in.
“While enhancing regulations on the gaming industry, we will also put emphasis on the convention, exhibition, logistics and cultural industries. We will also focus on the upgrade and transformation of traditional industries.”
Hu told the ceremony he wanted to encourage Macau to work with China’s Pearl Delta region, which encompasses Guangdong province, to develop its economy further.
Despite its casino industry boom, analysts say Macau is beset by corruption, organized criminal gangs and North Korean money laundering that could hamper its development.
Returned to Chinese rule after being a Portuguese colony for 442 years, Macau faces stiff competition in the gaming industry from markets like Singapore and Malaysia.
Macau’s gaming industry has been dominated by casino magnate Stanley Ho and his family, who own SJM Holdings, Melco International Development and Sands China.
Ho, 88, was at Sunday’s ceremony, seen publicly for the first time since he was hospitalized in early August, sparking market concerns over his health.
Other international names with a strong presence include Wynn Resorts and the Las Vegas Sands.
Additional reporting by Gary Ling in MACAU and Lee Chyen Yee in HONG KONG; Editing by Paul Tait