Members of the Consulate General of Brazil in Hong Kong visited Macau for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. At PLATAFORMA, the consul general, Manuel Innocencio de Lacerda Santos Jr., and the consuls Alexandre Alvim Ribeiro and Ivan Carlo Padre Seixas, address the exodus of the community and the brake imposed on education initiatives in recent years. They also speak of the “constitutional” importance of Forum Macau and thank the Consulate General of Portugal in Macau and Hong Kong, which made it possible to “assist the Brazilian community in matters that could not be resolved by mail”.
It was a “quick and comfortable journey” that the representatives of the Consulate General of Brazil in Hong Kong made to Macau, which also falls under consular jurisdiction. The consul general, Manuel Innocencio de Lacerda Santos Jr., who was accompanied by consuls Alexandre Alvim Ribeiro and Ivan Carlo Padre Seixas, expressed his “joy to be here after so long and to resume our contact with Macau”. He also assumes that the reopening of borders with Hong Kong will make his visits to the Region “more regular”.
This, which is the first that he has done since he took office two years ago, was mostly for the signing ceremony of the Leitorado Program at the University of São José (USJ), an initiative of the Brazilian Government that finances Brazilian readers to work in Institutions Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and promote the Portuguese language and Brazilian literature in these institutions.
Lacerda Santos Jr. explains to PLATAFORMA that, for now, “we still cannot visit the Macau authorities. We already have some interviews requested, but it hasn’t been possible yet. I imagine that all consulates are in this expectation. This visit of mine was almost exclusively dedicated to the issue of the Readership Program”, he adds.
Visiting Macau, after a three-year hiatus, was important for Lacerda Santos Jr. “The Brazilian presence in Macau dates practically from its origin. Portugal and Brazil are extremely united and Brazilians here in Macau feel part of the city, due to the language, architecture… we even commented among ourselves how much we feel at home here.”
“Perhaps now the return process will begin”
Similar to what was witnessed in the Portuguese community, the consul general shares with the newspaper that the Brazilian community also felt the impact of the pandemic in Macau and ended up returning to their home country. “There was a reduction yes. We estimate that 15 percent of Brazilians here in Macau have left. Perhaps now the process of return will begin ”, he says, alluding to the reopening of borders in mainland China and in the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. “This also happened in Hong Kong, where we have more direct contact with the community, due to proximity”, he adds, stressing that he now intends to strengthen communication with the community in Macau.
About a return of the Brazilian community to the Chinese special administrative regions, he says it is “still too early” to pronounce. However, “one can already see signs that this return is in the process”, not least because he feels the support of local governments for this issue.
The pandemic also came to “make it very difficult” for exchanges between peoples “in all areas”. In the field of education, there was even a paralysis of official intervention, which they now hope to resume. Alexandre Alvim Ribeiro explains that before the pandemic a special student program was in place for the exchange of academic knowledge, which “however was deactivated”. However, “it is possible that we will activate a new program along the same lines as the previous one”. Lacerda Santos Jr. reinforces the point: “What is without a doubt is Brazil’s great interest in wanting to exchange impressions”. Alvim Ribeiro continues, noting that “it is important for Brazil to be present in the Portuguese-speaking and academic environment. It is the largest Portuguese-speaking country, it is a power of great importance. Even though at the moment we do not have a specific program focused on student exchanges, with the return of activities, we intend to become more involved with academic institutions in Macau.”
In this context, “some cultural and educational exchange programs were recently offered through the Brazilian State Secretariat, where projects that can be financed by Brasilia are presented. One of the specific projects deals with Portuguese as a heritage language. So we must get in touch with the interlocutors, see what kind of project they have and how it is possible to spread the Portuguese language. We have already presented the project to Brasilia and, if the green light is given, the costing of these projects will be done by us. Therefore, at this moment, we are mapping, seeing who is interested in this type of project, and we will see how we can help”. The main priority in the educational sphere, he stresses, is “seeing how to keep the Portuguese language alive”.
Macau Forum “transcends” those in power
As for the Macau Forum, and if Lula da Silva now in the Brazilian presidency can bring new strategic axes, Ivan Carlo Padre Seixas says that it is still “premature” to make this assessment. However, he refers that “the Brazilian Government’s emphasis on promoting Lusophony is a constitutional matter; something that is always on our agenda. The Macau Forum can be very important as a catalyst for our foreign policy.” Lacerda Santos Jr. emphasizes that “the importance of the Macau Forum transcends politics” and who is in power. “It is not a change of president that will change the importance that Brazil gives to the Forum”, concluding that it is a matter of “continuing the work” carried out so far.
Brazil thanks Portugal
In the three years of the pandemic, there were difficulties in serving the Brazilian community in Macau, since the borders with Hong Kong were closed. The problem was overcome with the support of the Consulate General of Portugal in Macau and Hong Kong, “which allowed us to assist the Brazilian community in matters that could not be resolved by mail, such as notarial issues”, highlights the consul general, who makes a point of “thanking for the services provided” during the period.