The New Macau Association (ANM) is urging Chief Executive Chui Sai On to make use of his power to withdraw a scheme that grants “mutual recognition” of driver licenses between Macau and the mainland.
Although the cause is not new, it has gained renewed strength after a recent traffic accident leading to the death of a 22-year-old woman last Friday afternoon, with the crash involving a suspected illegal driver.
To address the concerns, the association is calling for a street march tomorrow, initially gathering at 3 p.m. at Vasco da Gama Garden and then marching in the direction of the government headquarters, where representatives will deliver a petition addressed to the CE with the withdrawal request.
As the elected lawmaker representing the association, Sulu Sou spoke at yesterday’s press conference to launch the event. “We don’t want to focus too much on particular and individual cases. The accident might have been the starting point [for this demonstration] but the problem is far larger than that,” he said, adding that he had already addressed the topic in written enquiries to the government.
At the same time, ANM President Icy Kam noted that the CE “can withdraw the authorization at any time and let society have more deliberation first.” This perspective complements Sou’s proposed “two- speed” system, with Sou saying, “maybe China can recognize Macau’s drivers licenses first while we discuss the issue of reciprocity through a widespread public consultation.”
For the association, the mutual recognition of drivers licenses would “just create more problems” in a system they say already suffers from several issues, such as a lack of law enforcement, lack of deterrence and abuse of the special drivers license system in force since 1984.
According to the ANM, “there have been numerous serious traffic accidents in recent years caused by illegal drivers,” citing statistics which show that in 2017, the police intercepted 1,243 cars for inspection and found a total of 73 cases of illegal drivers – a ratio described by Sou as “not low at all.”
On top of this acknowledgement, Sou says that both the police and the Labour Affairs Bureau (DSAL) are apparently having difficulties properly investigating these types of cases, adding that there are voices in society that even claim they avoid targeting big corporations. This situation, if true, might indicate the statistics are far from reflecting the real situation.
When addressing deterrence factors, Sou noted that in 2017, 154 employers were punished for employing unauthorized foreign drivers, resulting in the cancellation of only nine permits for importing manpower from four employers.
In most cases, fines ranging from MOP5,000 to MOP10,000 were issued, a punishment considered “too lenient” for such a “serious matter.”
Sou noted that the law has provisions for an employer to be banned from hiring foreign labor for six months to two years, but is rarely enforced.
On what he calls the abuse of special drivers licenses, as established by the Decree Law no. 67/84/M, mainland China drivers with mainland drivers licenses are allowed to request a special driving permit if it is requested by a company with representation in Macau.
According to Sou, this law is being abused, with many special permit holders currently employed and illegally driving casino shuttle-buses. The topic was also addressed several times in the previous legislature of the Legislative Assembly, but has been taken off the priorities list, as the government has not yet proposed a review.
The ANM is seriously concerned with the implementation of the mutual recognition scheme. “Even before the scheme is signed and implemented, illegal drivers from the mainland who have a different culture and driving style, have become a potential threat to Macau’s traffic, as a result of legal loopholes and a lack of enforcement. If the scheme is indeed implemented, more than 300 million mainlanders can drive in Macau without taking an examination, greatly expanding the base for illegal drivers,” Sou said. Law enforcement has already found it difficult with a smaller number of cases, and it will only get worse with more.
The association said it does not to have an estimate on how many people will join tomorrow’s demonstration, but said it hopes that people will come together on the topic, calling on other organizations and associations with concerns to join forces.