US report says civil liberties have been restricted

The annual US Department of State’s report on human rights criticizes Macau for constraints on press and academic freedom, as well as on issues such as democracy development and human trafficking.

The report claims that “the government took steps to restrict unfavorable news coverage.” However, it adds local media expressed a wide range of views.

“The media practiced self-censorship, in part because the government heavily subsidized major newspapers that tended to follow closely the PRC government’s policy on sensitive political issues,” the report reads. The report also quotes claims made by the Macau Journalists Association: “At least five editors of local media outlets received messages from their senior executives instructing them to report more on positive news after a typhoon, and less on the government’s accountability for problems, especially the accountability of the highest officials.”

Possible constraints to freedom of speech by citizens have also been reported. “The law provides freedom of expression, including for the press, but the government occasionally sought to restrict these rights,” the report reads. “In August, police arrested two persons for allegedly spreading false information about the government’s response to a typhoon. In December, the government said it had begun drafting legislation to implement a national law passed in September that criminalizes any action mocking the Chinese national anthem and requires persons attending public events to stand at attention and sing the anthem in a solemn manner when the anthem is played.”

The denial of entry into the territory of some Hong Kong journalists was also addressed in the report. In addition, the report mentions criminal proceedings against citizens that participate in peaceful street protests, in a reference to the case involving Sulu Sou and Scott Chiang opposing authorities, who are set to face a court hearing next month.

Regarding cases of “arbitrary arrest or detention,” the US report states that “activists expressed concern that the SAR government abused prosecutorial procedures to target political dissidents, while police said they charged those they arrested with violations of the law.”

Regarding labor rights, the US Department of State mentions the occurrence of discrimination cases with respect to employment. Non resident workers “frequently complained of discrimination in the workplace in [terms of] hiring and wages, and some classes of migrants were not provided equal employment benefits.”

In response, the Macau Government Spokesperson’s Office slammed the US report, stating that since its establishment, the MSAR government has protected the rights and freedoms of Macau residents. The statement adds that such “achievements and objective facts have been recognized by anyone holding an unbiased view.” On the whole, the statement expressed “strong opposition to foreign countries’ interference in any form in Macau’s internal affairs that are a domestic matter for China.”

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