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Chui time

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image Paulo Coutinho

Sunday’s massive protests on the streets of Macau were not about the development of democracy, not about Tiananmen, not about politics. They were about the economy (stupid).
The “White-for-Withdrawal movement” asking Chui Sai On to drop the compensation bill for top officials and mobilizing 15-20 thousand people (some accounts on social media are even talking about 30 thousand) is the largest demonstration in Macau since 1989 when crowds of 50 to 100 thousand demonstrators came out in support of the student’s movement in China.
Just last September, the elections for the Legislative Assembly (AL) were marked by a notably low turnout when everybody was expecting otherwise in the face of nascent civic activism from our society. May Day demos, usually massively frequented by the lowest paid classes, are declining into irrelevance at the same yearly pace as the financial support scheme is increasing in value.
So, why this sudden “awakening”?
The “drop it, Chui” demonstration is happening at a time of extraordinary abundance and deteriorating quality of life: In a time of deepening inequality, where you see the extremely rich get richer and the struggling middle-class getting poorer. The “government lay-see” may have worked with the lowest-income families, but it’s inefficacious to solve the growing problems of a younger, more ambitious middle-class: skyrocketing cost of living, deteriorating healthcare, the housing bubble, gridlocked public transportation, rising pollution, lack of proper schools… The city’s resources have reached their limit and are about to crash.
So, on Sunday, did the “sandwich-class”.
The tens of thousands of protestors were mostly comprised of young adults: the better-educated youth starting their working life or university students aspiring to do the same in the coming years, who see no or little benefit to their lifestyle anywhere near commensurate with the astronomical sums that the casino economy is producing for the public coffers.
Over the past few years there has been a growing sense of unfairness and impunity. The unreasonable compensation bill just topped it off. It was seized upon by the people, symbolizing this felling of unfairness and inequality.
Besides the circumstances, the organizers of this movement made a very clever play. From the pan-democrats to Pereira Coutinho, they understood both the urgency of the matter and the swelling momentum, while capitalizing on the gross errors of the proponents and their acolytes. It’s not the bill that is at stake, it’s the method adopted to make it pass (unnoticed?) in the legislative body, and some of its provisions like the “obscene” pensions proposed and the “infinite” immunity conceded to the Chief Executive.
The conspiracy theorists are asking: who framed Chui Sai On? Or was it all a Chui show to humor the masses: I hear you!
The message that stands is that Macau residents better trust the influence of street politics than electing representatives to a powerless assembly.

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