It is no secret that Macao’s political system is not only overly executive-led and highly dependent on the admonitions coming from up north, but also bogged down by vested corporatist interests whose vision regarding Macao’s future seldom goes beyond family or close affiliates, and how these interests fit with the grand design of the day as voiced out in the capital. Oh sure! it’s not one big happy family, and competition between clans can be rife, but like any environment driven by (huge) profit-making things get settled behind closed doors and pragmatism ultimately prevails. In traditional settings, overexposure to light is actually scorned more than the idea of conflict.
The suspension of Sulu Sou Ka Hou from his mandate in the Assembly perfectly illustrates the stern reaction any attempt at offsetting the system will provoke. I am even tempted to believe that newly- appointed legislator Pang Chuan is not lying when he declares that lawmakers, despite voting the suspension by 28 votes against four, did not receive any particular instruction: what’s the need? Out of 33 legislators, only five (some used to say four, and this vote might have helped clarify other things) are truly independent from these vested interests that often translate into conflicts of interest: corporatist branches will automatically bind together as soon as they feel threatened. And Mr Sou, because of his game-changing perspective, represents a threat to all. Ever since he was elected in September he has targeted all aspects of policy-making — and not only dealing with youth or more segmented concerns. He has directly challenged the Chief Executive in his handling of the Hato crisis, and thus questioned the total lack of accountability, starting from the highest echelon, so detrimental to Macao politics. In his own ordeal, he has shone “light” on black box processes, directly exposing on social media the respective positions of the members of the legislature’s House Rules Committee regarding his case, thus highlighting the inherent contradictions between claims and actual practice.
But eventually, the matter boils down to the original sin: what does legislator Sou stand accused of that would warrant a suspension of his mandate? Is he bound to appear in court for a crime of blood? Is he charged with cronyism and has he facilitated the employment of relatives or affiliates in public offices? Has he embezzled public money for personal enrichment?
None of the above: he stands accused of “aggravated disobedience” for having walked in the middle of the road instead of the pavement during a protest in May 2016 and subsequently thrown a paper-plane petition into the garden of the Chief Executive. The object of the demonstration: to protest about the opaque and controversial transfer of MOP100 million to Jinan University (Guangzhou) by the Macao Foundation, that happens to be presided over by the Chief Executive.
Interestingly enough, the biggest beneficiary of funds endowed by the Macao Foundation in 2016 is none other than Macau University of Science and Technology, the very university that employs legislator Pang Chuan. Additionally, Mr Pang’s boss sits on the board of the Foundation and the Executive Council. The second biggest beneficiary is the Kiang Wu Hospital Charitable Association, connected to quite a few legislators too, including Chui family members. The third biggest is the foundation behind the City University of Macao, with connections to at least three legislators. Then the Macao Federation of Trade Unions, the fourth biggest beneficiary, is directly linked to four legislators; etc.
What motivates the suspension of Mr Sou then, contrary to what Mrs Angela Leong or Mr José Chui Sai Peng, both sitting on the board of the Macau Foundation, have said is not the respect for the law or the independence of justice: it is to remind the youngest ever-elected legislator who the boss is! Unfortunately, this has not only been done at the expense of our already fragile rule of law, but also with potentially very disruptive consequences for the harmony of our society.