Isabel Santos MEP believes that Portugal has an “inalienable responsibility” towards Macau and should question the situation of civil rights in the territory, taking advantage of the visit of the president of the executive of that Chinese Special Administrative Region, Ho Iat Seng.
“The administrative transfer [of Macau’s sovereignty to China] was made under conditions, and I remember well, at the time, Portugal’s commitment to defending those conditions,” said Isabel Santos in an interview with Lusa about the official visit that Ho Iat Seng is making from 18 to 22 April.
“And therefore, we must at all times maintain this commitment and be consistent with this commitment, be very assertive in fulfilling this commitment and defend what is enshrined in this declaration,” she added.
At stake is what the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration of 13 April 1987, which resulted in the transfer of Macau’s sovereignty on 20 December 1999, provides for, among other issues, in terms of rights, freedoms and guarantees.
Isabel Santos said the “Portuguese attitude has to be clear” and “can in no way be conditioned by the answer or non-answer because there is a clear assessment.
In recent years there has been a progression towards limiting the rights and freedoms of citizens in the territory of Macau more and more, and this cannot be acceptable because these rights and freedoms are written in that declaration which then serves as the basis for the Basic Law” of Macau, also considered to be the “mini-constitution” of this Chinese Special Administrative Region (SAR), she added.
Another question that Portugal should ask Ho Iat Seng is related to Macau’s national security law which, according to Isabel Santos, is “in every way similar” to legislation in the Hong Kong SAR.
For the MEP, this legislation “represses freedoms”, and “we cannot close our eyes to this”, she said.
“We have to see that in recent years all that has happened [in Macau] is the disqualification of pro-democracy candidates, the complete and total ban of the vigils that were held for many years in memory of the victims of the Tiananmen massacre. They were even deemed illegal, with retroactive effect, which is something absolutely astonishing,” he highlights.
“We cannot be complacent when we see certain types of authoritarian advances that limit citizens’ freedoms,” she stressed.
As for what Ho Iat Seng hopes to achieve on this official visit to Portugal, his first outside of China, if the former Portuguese colonies are a target, Isabel Santos warned about what has been the Chinese attitude in Africa where, she noted, “it has entered in a bilateral and very predatory way.
Isabel Santos also said that Portugal should not forget what is happening in Hong Kong with the Luso-Chinese Tsz Lun Kok and Joseph John.
Tsz Lun Kok served a seven-month prison sentence in Shenzhen after being convicted of “illegal border crossing” in a frustrated attempt to escape to Taiwan, having been extradited to Hong Kong on 22 March 2021.
This Portuguese-Chinese had been detained in Hong Kong in 2019, accused of rioting, but did not go to court because he was serving a seven-month sentence in Shenzhen.
As for Joseph John, on 28 March, a Hong Kong court postponed until 1 June the start of his trial, in which he is charged with incitement to subversion, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
This crime was created by the national security law enacted in 2020 by Beijing to put an end to dissent in the Hong Kong SAR.
Isabel Santos pointed out that Joseph John is the first foreigner to be tried under the national security law.