Wed, Dec 06, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Lawmaker in Macau suspended over ‘disobedience’ case

Reuters, HONG KONG

Macau has suspended a pro-democracy lawmaker for alleged “disobedience” after he took to the street instead of staying on a sidewalk during a protest, as activists warn suppression of civil rights is growing in the territory.

The suspension of the lawmaker is the first since 1999, when the former Portuguese colony returned to China within a “one country, two systems” framework that allows a free press and an independent judiciary.

“It’s a dark day for Macau,” said Jose Coutinho, one of four legislators who voted against the suspension in Monday’s secret ballot, which drew 28 votes in favor.

“I am sad and disillusioned with this outcome,” he said.

There were numerous illegalities in the ballot and the lawmaker, 26-year-old Sulu Sou (蘇嘉豪), should have been given an opportunity to defend himself, Coutinho added.

Sou was only allowed to respond to lawmakers’ questions; he could not make a speech or vote during the session.

Sou is awaiting trial over a protest last year against a perceived conflict of interest in the transfer of 100 million yuan (US$15 million) from the charitable government-linked Macau Foundation to Jinan University in Guangzhou, on whose board Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui (崔世安) sits.

The protest was held outside Chui’s residence.

After police demanded that the protesters leave, they did, but not before folding protest letters into paper airplanes and tossing them over the residence’s fence.

Sou and another activist, then-New Macau Association president Scott Chiang (鄭明軒) were charged in March with “aggravated disobedience,” which is punishable with imprisonment of up to two years.

No date has been set for Sou’s trial, but the assembly vote strips him of his duties, and he can only return if he is found not guilty or gets a jail term shorter than 30 days.

Many in Macau fear the decision signals authorities intend to follow a path similar to that of Hong Kong, which has jailed several pro-democracy activists, including a lawmaker, Nathan Law (羅冠聰), in the past year.

“This may be the beginning of the death sentence to Macau’s rule of law, and it will end up having an impact in the casino industry,” said Jorge Menezes, a lawyer who has lived in Macau since 1997.

“Sou was stripped of his rights to participate in the debate and vote in a clear violation of the assembly’s rules,” said Menezes, adding that such violations could apply elsewhere in Macau, including the casino industry.

Sou, of the pro-democracy New Macau Association, was elected in the September polls to one of the few directly elected seats in the Macau legislature. He won more than 9,000 votes.

He has vowed to fight on.

Sou said his case did not involve corruption, breach of duty, organized crime or harm to public interest.

The New Macau Association posted on Facebook that it supports Sou.

“We stick together for the very same goal that put us on this course to fight for justice,” it wrote.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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