Residents in Macao have achieved an about-turn and shown a marked increase in self-confidence since the reunification with the motherland five years ago.
Chief researcher Wong Hon-keong of the Centre for Macao Studies at the University of Macau made the remarks in a recent interview with China Daily. Wong is also a member of the Macao Basic Law Committee of National People's Congress Standing Committee.
Speaking of the changes the SAR experienced in the past five years, Wong rated the new-found identity among most people being the most-significant.
"People here are now more confident about themselves. We are more self-reliant, with a passion and love for the country and the SAR as well as support for the chief executive," Wong said.
"It is evident there is no longer the sense of reliance on others for support. In the 1990s, a foreign company had such observation: people in Macao had no confidence in either the government or themselves. They said we were only a broken pot," he said.
In spite of the unfriendly criticism, he recalled the locals -- compounded by the poor law and order situation -- just submitted to it without putting up an active response. Fatalism reined as the community then was short of an anchor to unite its various sectors.
"There seemed to be nothing else besides gambling. And gaming at that time was also monopolized. Many people looked forward to reunification," Wong said.
He said that five years after reunification, the people were leading a more contented life than before and developments in the past five years proved Macao people were capable of ruling Macao.
He attributed the progress to the community's ability to have problems solved together and a stable and harmonious social environment.
"Not long after the reunification, a group of workers took to the street to demonstrate. It was a major issue because Macao, given its tiny size, simply could not cope with this. So all sides -- the government, companies and neighbourhood associations -- worked together to solve their problems and to let the workers know they were not ignored," he said.
Citing poll results by local research institutes, he said Chief Executive Edmund Ho had a high level of support among the population. Since the first poll result was released in March 2000, Ho's scores have consistently been above 70 per cent with the latest figure rising to 82.5 per cent last month.
He said that people in the SAR were proud of the country with their confidence stemming from the Basic Law and the "One Country, Two Systems" arrangement, adding that the Basic Law was such a well-written document that it laid a solid foundation for the SAR's post-1999 development.
"For example in Article 118, it is provided that the SAR government shall, on its own, make policies on tourism and recreation in light of its overall interests," he said, recalling that there were a lot of discussions in Macao on the gambling franchise at that time.
"After it was agreed that gaming tourism should be used to drive Macao's economic development, the Basic Law was made to give us the spacious room for development," he said.
Another provision was provided in Article 100 that, he said, would spare the government of potential conflicts with public servants as the law, while assuring them of their employment terms largely unchanged, also allowed for "improvement" in the light of social development.
Article 100 says Macao's previous system of employment, discipline, advanced and regular promotion may basically remain unchanged, but may be improved along with the development of Macao society.
(China Daily December 15, 2004)