Tue, Dec 21, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Tung Chee-hwa red in the face as Hu gushes over Macau

AGENCIES , MACAU

Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) hailed Macau as an economic and political success story on the fifth anniversary of its return to China yesterday, while leveling criticism of the leadership in neighboring Hong Kong.

Praising Macau's transformation from a quiet Portuguese colony to Asia's booming gambling capital, Hu said the territory showed the success of the "one country, two systems" model drawn up by the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平).

The model, which was also used for the 1997 Hong Kong handover, has been presented as a template for Taiwan to return to Beijing's rule, though Hu made no mention of Taiwan in his speech.

"Time has proven that Deng Xiaoping's `one country, two systems' formula is perfectly accurate and it will continue to exhibit an immense power to live on," said Hu, speaking at the inauguration of Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho (何厚鏵).

"Macau's return to China in the last five years has brought great improvements. Under the government of Chief Executive Edmund Ho ... it has overcome the Asian financial crisis, external economic changes, SARS and other challenges," he said.

Revitalized by a law passed two years ago to allow foreign investment in the gaming sector, Macau's casinos are thriving thanks to a surge in mainland Chinese tourists.

Analysts predict earnings at the more than 40 casinos that will be open by 2009 will easily surpass the US$7.5 billion which the casinos of US gambling paradise Las Vegas cleared last year.

Hu acknowledged however that it was inevitable that the blueprint, which saw Hong Kong and Macau returned to China, was facing some difficulties.

"We might also encounter some problems as the undertaking has never been tried before," he said. "We must correctly analyse and properly handle these problems."

The comments were directed at leaders in Hong Kong, with Hu telling Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華), who was present at the ceremony, that he and senior officials had to improve their performance.

"Officials must be more concerned with the people of Hong Kong and push forward the economic development and improve government of the people of Hong Kong," he said in a dressing-down to the stony-faced Cabinet.

"Officials must also improve their capabilities and abilities to govern. The officials must turn back and look over the past seven years and find out what has gone wrong," Hu said.

A Hong Kong government spokesman played down Hu's criticism, and said the Chinese leader had been broadly supportive of the city's leaders.

Hu, meanwhile, praised Ho for tackling organized crime and promoting the economy.

"Today Macau enjoys social stability, sustained economic growth and a peaceful and contented population," Hu said.

Hu later left Macau for Beijing.

Ho was re-elected in September by an electoral college of political and business elites handpicked by Beijing.

In an apparent move to mitigate the embarrassment caused to his government, Tung told reporters that Hu had said Hong Kong was moving in the right direction and denied there was a crisis of governance.

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