Xi lands in Macau for China handover anniversary party

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan arrive for the 20th anniversary celebrations of Macao’s return to China. (AP Photo)
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Updated 18 December 2019

Xi lands in Macau for China handover anniversary party

  • Macau’s celebration stands in stark contrast to months of unrest in neighboring Hong Kong
  • China’s authoritarian leadership is keen to showcase Macau as a successful example of its one country, two systems model

MACAU: Chinese president Xi Jinping landed in Macau on Wednesday as the city prepares to mark 20 years since the former Portuguese colony was returned, a celebration that stands in stark contrast to months of unrest in neighboring Hong Kong.
Security has been ramped up ahead of Xi’s three-day visit which culminates on Friday’s anniversary.
China’s authoritarian leadership is keen to showcase Macau as a successful example of its “one country, two systems” model, with party leaders heaping praise on a pliant city of 700,000 that has grown rich on gambling and deference to authoritarian rule.
“The Chinese people and the central government are proud of the achievements and progress Macau has made in the past 20 years since its return to the motherland,” Xi said on arrival at the city’s airport, a troupe of school children waving Chinese and Macau flags behind him.
Since the 1999 handover by Lisbon, Macau has witnessed little of the dissent that has exploded in Hong Kong during six months of often violent pro-democracy protests as large chunks of the population seethes under Beijing’s rule.
Like Hong Kong it maintains its own currency, judiciary and free market. But it has long since passed mainland style anti-sedition laws that have been successfully resisted by Hong Kongers.
Limited details have been released by authorities on Xi’s schedule.
He will meet local leaders and attend a dinner and a cultural performance on Thursday. The following day Xi will preside over the inauguration of the city’s new leader Ho Iat-seng.
A former member of China’s top lawmaking body, Ho won a one-horse race this summer to become chief executive — a position that is chosen by a 400-member committee stacked with Beijing loyalists.
Bunting and banners hailing the anniversary were erected across the city, including on some of the casinos that serve as the territory’s lifeblood.
Security has been dramatically tightened ahead of Xi’s visit.
Police set up checkpoints and extra screenings for passenger arrivals while authorities said some major roads would see closures.
The city’s first light rail line announced it would shut down for the duration, just a week after it was first opened to the public while the airport said some flights would be rescheduled.
Security checks were also ramped up in Hong Kong’s ferry terminals and on a huge bridge and tunnel system linking the two cities.
Since last week police from mainland China have been manning a newly created checkpoint on an artificial island that links the bridge and tunnel system between Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai, the first time they have done so.
Multiple journalists with Hong Kong passports working for local and international media have been denied entry to Macau in the run up to the anniversary while a group of pro-democracy lawmakers were denied permission to board a ferry on Wednesday.
Earlier this month the president and chairman of Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce were also denied entry to Macau without explanation.
“It’s totally one country, one system,” a 34-year-old local who regularly travels to Hong Kong told AFP, adding that protesting in Macau was “pointless and dangerous.”
“The reason it looks like it’s working well is because Macau people don’t protest.”
But he said there was local anger about the wealth of the city’s elites, the limited transport infrastructure and severe overcrowding, even though the population have become wealthier.
Macau’s skyline and economy have changed beyond recognition since four centuries of Portuguese rule ended in 1999, with glittering casinos the backbone of the city’s dramatic rise.
As the only place in China where gambling is allowed, Macau’s GDP has soared from $6.4 billion in 1999 to more than $55 billion.
Per capita GDP is the third highest in the world behind Luxembourg and Switzerland, according to the International Monetary Fund, while its casinos now rake in each week the same as Las Vegas makes in a month.
But while Macau has grown rich and been politically stable in the 20 years of Chinese rule, it has many vulnerabilities.
Much of the city’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small elite and all its economic chips are in the gambling basket which still accounts for 80 percent of government revenue.


Pakistan Hindus rally in Islamabad over India migrant deaths

Updated 25 September 2020

Pakistan Hindus rally in Islamabad over India migrant deaths

  • The dead migrants’ relatives have held small rallies in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province but this was the first time they had taken their demonstration to the country’s capital
  • The protesters accuse India’s secret service of poisoning the 11 Hindus

ISLAMABAD : Pakistan’s minority Hindus rallied late on Thursday in Islamabad, briefly clashing with the police, to protest the deaths of 11 members of a Hindu migrant family who died in India last month under mysterious circumstances.
Since then, the dead migrants’ relatives have held small rallies in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province but this was the first time they had taken their demonstration to the country’s capital, vowing to stage a sit-in near the Indian Embassy.
The protesters accuse India’s secret service of poisoning the 11 Hindus, who were found dead at a farmhouse in India’s Jodhpur district in Rajasthan state. The demonstrators arrived in Islamabad around midnight, chanting, “We want justice.” They briefly skirmished with officers who prevented them from reaching the embassy site.
After the Aug. 9 deaths, Indian media reports suggested the Hindu family members, originally from Pakistan, had taken their own lives. Official Islamabad says New Delhi had not shared any reports of the case.
Thursday’s rally was an unusual move for Pakistan’s Hindus, who have mostly lived without conflict with the country’s predominantly Muslim majority. Earlier this year under pressure from radical Muslims, Pakistani authorities halted construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad.
Ramesh Kumar, a top leader of the Hindu community who led Thursday’s protest, met on Wednesday with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, seeking his help in pressuring India to release results of the initial police probe into the case.
Pakistan has also asked for access to a Hindu worker who was at the Jodhpur farm at the time of the deaths, according to government officials.
In his meeting with Qureshi, Kumar said Shrimati Mukhi, the daughter of the head of the family that died, had levelled the poisoning accusations. She earlier this month told local media that India allegedly pressured the family to issue a statement denouncing Pakistan’s government. There was no official comment from India on the allegations.
Last week, Pakistan summoned an Indian diplomat to convey concerns over the “Jodhpur incident.” A subsequent ministry statement said India had “failed to share any substantive details regarding the cause and circumstances of the deaths” of the Hindus and asked for a comprehensive investigation.
Nuclear armed rivals Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations. Pakistan’s military said Wednesday that two of its soldiers were killed by Indian fire in a cease-fire violation in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. The region is split between the two countries but claimed by both in its entirety. India and Pakistan have fought two out of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence in 1947.

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