Tue, Dec 03, 2019 - Page 5 News List

China picks new leaders for Macau

‘FRESH OUTLOOK’:The new economy secretary has no experience in the casino industry, a first since Macau’s handover in 1999, which has been found surprising

Reuters, HONG KONG

Incoming Macanese chief executive Ho Iat Seng, right, arrives for the military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing on Oct. 1.

Photo: Reuters via CNS

China has appointed a slate of new officials to lead Macau, changing key roles including the territory’s economy and justice secretaries.

The appointments came as Macau’s casino industry is experiencing tumbling revenues and ahead of an expected visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) this month to mark 20 years of Chinese rule.

Macau announced the changes on a government Web site late on Sunday.

They followed nominations by incoming Macanese chief executive Ho Iat Seng (賀一誠), who is to be formally sworn in on Dec. 20.

Although anti-government protests have roiled Hong Kong for nearly six months, Macau has seen little opposition to Beijing’s rule.

Macau-born Ho, the sole candidate approved to run for leader, was chosen by a 400-member pro-Beijing committee to lead the enclave for the next five years.

He has no ties to the casino industry, in contrast to previous leaders, and his new Cabinet would play a key role in determining what will happen to the six casino operators when their licenses expire in 2022.

Macau’s casino operators have been hit by slowing economic growth, a US-China trade row, a weakening Chinese yuan and protests in Hong Kong.

The slowdown has added to pressure for Macau to diversify its economy from the casino industry, which accounts for more than 80 percent of government revenues.

Fujian, China-born Lei Wai Nong (李偉農) is to replace Macanese Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong (梁維特), who has been in the post since 2014.

He is to be the first economy secretary since Macau’s handover from Portugal in 1999 not to have worked in relevant private sector businesses, a move several industry analysts said was surprising.

“He has no experience in economic development in Macau or in the casino industry. It seems that Mr Ho wanted to pick someone with a fresh outlook,” said Larry So, a political commentator and former university professor in Macau.

Lei is the vice president of the Macanese Executive Council of the Municipal Affairs Bureau and has worked for the government since 1992.

The replacement of Leong comes after he was initially touted as a contender for chief executive to run against Ho. He did not end up entering the race.

Ho’s new team, which would also be sworn in on Dec. 20, consists of 10 officials, nine men and a woman.

Cheong Weng Chun, the commissioner against corruption, is to become the new secretary of justice.

Secretary for Security of Macau Wong Sio Chak (黃少澤) is to be reappointed to Ho’s team as would Raimundo Do Rosario, secretary of transport and public works.

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