Our Desk | My BIR (Macau ID) is better than yours

Renato Marques

Forms of discrimination are a constant topic all over the world for the most varied of reasons. Whether based on skin color, political views, gender, religion, nationality or any other minor attribute, discrimination plagues our countries, our cities, our schools and our work places.

Recently, I was reminded of another reason why this lovely piece of land (and maritime waters) called Macau is a unique place in this world as, guess what, we have a few more of our own – in addition to the normal forms of discrimination.

We already have an ID card for Permanent Residents, another for Non-Permanent Residents and a third for Non-Residents, each with different benefits, advantages and perks, which are formalized and clearly stated by law. If this was not already enough, we also have the unofficial perks that are not stated anywhere but are “common practice.”

To explain a bit further, while searching for a new apartment (again), I was confronted with a situation that in fact had already occurred a few years back, but which, this time, I decided to explore in depth.

At a real estate agency, an agent was on the phone trying to understand if a house unit owner was interested in renting his property to me. The conversation started to get weirder and weirder.

After wanting to know all about me, my age, my nationality, my work place, my salary and whether I had any intention to bring kids (or pets) to the apartment, as well as other details of my private life that I decided not to include in this text out of pure shame, the owner asked for time to think.

At this point, the real estate agent (a local woman in her fifties) turned to me and said, “You know, he is a Chinese, not easy to deal with…”.
I confess that such statement did not clear up any questions in my mind. In fact, it made me even more confused as the real estate agent was also Chinese, so I could not guess what she meant by saying “he is a Chinese.”

After a few long minutes, which the agent used to search for other possible options, the man called. As she was busy looking through papers, she put the phone on loudspeaker mode.

On the other side of the line, the man was telling her: “I don’t want to rent to Portuguese people, neither to Filipinos…” He said this several times while the agent holding my Permanent Resident Macau ID card (BIR) in her hands was telling him, “But he is a Macau Permanent Resident.” To this, he replied, “You told me he was a Portuguese, so I don’t want to rent my house to any Portuguese people or Filipino people,” before hanging up the phone.

After the call, the agent tried to explain to me that he had refused to let us see the apartment, as he did not wish to rent the house to me because I am Portuguese.

The next image that crossed my mind was the waiting room of the Portuguese Consulate in Macau, where I had been a week before to renew my passport. The consulate was a room packed with “Chinese” people, all holding “Portuguese” passports and IDs in their hands. Why? The answer is simple – because they are Macau People! Although I can guess that, contrary to what happens with their Portuguese ID and Passport, their Macau ID has more perks than mine, maybe they can even rent a house to live in. Lucky them!

Categories Opinion