Editorial | The serpent’s egg

Paulo Coutinho

Police authorities have denied the organization of the annual June 4 vigil in remembrance of the victims of Tiananmen on the grounds of public health safety.
Nothing really surprising. June 4 vigil, here and in Hong Kong, has always been seen as an embarrassment to the establishment and China.
Though I find it somehow refreshing that the local government went lengths to justify the canceling, the sequence of events crashed my well-intentioned expectations.
It’s not at all political, they said, it’s for health reasons given the Covid-19 pandemic.
Well, anyone walking around in Macau and going places to dine or drink, or shop or even dance knows that the town has been back in business for well over a month. In a walk in the park, any park, you see hundreds of people. Go to a supermarket or a shopping mall: you meet crowds.
In what way did this particular event pose an additional threat to the community’s health? Barely any. Especially because the police would have put measures in place such as social distancing and wearing masks (well, that one might have been tricky…).
So, we have to wonder: was this a political decision? Of course, it was.
The annual vigil has always been an embarrassment. Why not take the plausible cause, the health concerns – so at hand, so reasonable – and disallow it? So they did it last week for the first time in 30 years.
However, new problems have arisen. The next day, June 5, a demonstration took place in support of the National Security Law for Hong Kong, voted recently by NPC’s standing committee.
Problem one: last year, a demonstration was forbidden by local authorities when a group wanted to show their support for Hongkongers protesting against an extradition bill – which eventually was dropped by Chief Executive Carrie Lam in face of massive criticism.
The reason evoked for the cancellation was that Macau had no business to demonstrate about issues regarding the other SAR.
Problem two: the police said that it was unaware of the Macao Youth Association caravan, and called it a “festive parade.” How can the police be “unaware” of a public activity gathering dozens of pro-Beijing advocates?
Take these double-standards decisions with the detention of the two daughters of pro-democracy lawmaker Au Kam San and the round-up of a teenager by policemen, on the night of June 4. The former were charged with illegal assembly; the latter was driven home by the agents who advised her to dedicate herself to her studies and forget about politics. (Pretty much what many schools in Macau preach, anyway.)
Mix that with the ruling of the highest court on June 4 vigil giving way to arbitrary rule for sustaining a police decision where the law states that only the Chief Executive has the power to inhibit a fundamental right.
Secretary Wong Sio Chak can’t possibly predict what world we will be in in a year, much less if the city is in the position to sustain a vigil interrupted.

Categories Editorial Macau Opinion