‘Residents-only’ housing proposals criticized

Lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong’s motion to debate public interests, in particular the housing issues on the region’s reclamation land, was rejected by the majority of lawmakers at the Legislative Assembly (AL) plenary meeting on Friday.

Ng proposed a motion whereby the government would ensure that Macau’s reclamation lands will be used for Macau people, specifically for permanent residents.

While delivering his proposal, Ng said that the government should save part of the lands to build public and economical houses.

The lawmaker blamed the government’s housing policies as residents are unable to afford to buy houses. His motion found its first opponent in Lau Veng Seng, who defended the government by saying that it, while ensuring the residence rights of residents, has reasonable housing policies which will not be opposed by anyone.

In Lau’s opinion, using residency as one of the requirements to be eligible to purchase houses on reclamation lands is not necessary.

“This will not help solve the problems and it will cause a negative impact on [Macau’s] urban design and development,” said Lau, pointing out that demanding a local ID will be equivalent to Macau disallowing non-locals from residing in Macau.

“It is equal to creating barriers around itself,” said Lau, adding that “all it does is harm, and it is unconstructive [for Macau] for attracting talented human resources and investors.”

Lawmaker Vong Hin Fai also opposed the motion. “Macau is a city of immigrants, an international city; people from everywhere in the country come to Macau,” said Vong, adding that the notion of “Macau People, Macau Land” will make foreigners interpret Macau as an exclusive and closed place. “It harms the long-term development.”

Another opponent was Lam Heong Sang, who voted against the motion but presented different motives.

According to Lam, it is better for the AL to urge the government to complete the construction of public housing projects, which the government has been working on for many years.

Lam believes that all efforts will be in vain if the government is slow in building public houses.

Lawmaker Mak Soi Kun and Ho Ion Sang both voiced that, currently, the government should prioritize the control of the continuously growing housing prices.

Fong Chi Keong said that the housing policies indeed have problems, and added that the government is “lazy in terms of housing policies.”

Fong stated that Macau has different classes of customers and, because of this, the local government should split the city’s land resources into different parts in order to meet the needs of every single class.

Au Kam San, who is on the motion supporters’ side, noted first that he supports all motions, and he considers that Ng’s motion should be debated at the AL “exactly because it is very controversial.” According to Ng, the idea of “Macau People, Macau Land” will not exclude non-residents.

Melinda Chan also expressed the idea that a controversial motion deserves AL debate.

Song Pek Kei, also supporting the motion, noted that the Macau public is strongly concerned about new lands available for housing.

After the motion was rejected, Ma Chi Seng remarked that the “Macau People, Macau Land” concept has already reached a consensus among all sectors.

Ma noted that land development should take economic factors into account, and should also meet the needs of all classes in the city.

Ma pointed out however that “it is fairly difficult for Macau to explore and utilize its limited resources” under the instruction of the “Macau People Macau land” idea.

On the Lawmakers’ Agenda

RECLAMATION Si Ka Lon suggested the government should reclaim 30 square kilometers of land from the 850 square kilometers that the central government granted to Macau. Si’s inquiry indicated that Macau has an outstanding issue in what concerns the city’s residences. The city’s industrial development has been constrained due to the lack of land, which affects a myriad of industries. Si suggested the local government to create a large scale “fourth space” on reclamation land.

ELDERLY UNIVERSITY Angela Leong looks forward to the government establishing a university specifically for the elderly. She hopes that the school can produce life-long free education to the elderly. Courses such as using medicine safely, customer protection, and psychology regarding the elderly are suggested features. The university would help the elderly to plan their lives and to become re-acquianted with society. The Macau Polytechnic Institute currently has a quota of 480 vacancies for the elderly to enroll for study in the school’s college, with Leong deeming that this quota cannot meet the reality of an aging population.

CIVIL SERVANTS EVALUATION Chan Meng Kam addressed the evaluation system of the local government’s civil servants as a system where “students take exams, and their parents score the exams”, indicating that higher government officials evaluate their subordinates and therefore the evaluation is not reliable. “I don’t understand why governors cover for each other,” complained Chan, pointing out that the system has secretaries evaluating bureau heads, and bureau heads evaluating department directors. Chan noted that civil servants working at the frontlines will be investigated once these employees are evaluated with bad grades. The lawmaker also said that the “closed and opaque civil servants” evaluation system would be “intact for 50 years.”

Tougher laws to prevent sex crimes

The amendment of Macau’s laws relating to sexual harassment and sexual activities with minors was passed by the Legislative Assembly (AL) on Friday.

Melinda Chan questioned whether, in case that the victim of sexual harassment is a minor under 14 years old, the prosecution office (besides the victim’s guardian) can take the initiative to sue the suspect.

Mak Soi Kun said that minors mature early in modern times. He questioned the Secretary for Administration and Justice, Sonia Chan, about how he authority would handle cases of rape where both involved parties are minors.

A legal affairs representative explained that it would be considered on a case-by-case basis, and that final judgement will depend on judiciary authorities.

After the amendment was passed, several lawmakers made a few remarks regarding the law.

Wong Kit Cheng commented that the law still needs to be amended, as verbal sexual harassment is currently unaddressed by the law.

“It is the first step,” said Wong, adding that it is still vital for front workers to enhance their abilities in handling related cases. She hopes that the government will be able to pass laws more effective for preventing sexual harassment.

She further suggested the government to implement administrative punishment for suspects.

Zheng Anting and Mak admitted that the amendment was proposed in response to the appeals of society, thus securing its stability, as well as for the protection of minors.

However, Chan pointed out that the law still has flaws. “It [the amended law] does not wholly protect children,” remarked Chan, adding that “the government can be more considerate, and the law can be amended later. I will keep fighting for it.”

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