"Macau is not a priority for Portuguese exports and investment" - Plataforma Media

“Macau is not a priority for Portuguese exports and investment”

It is common knowledge: there are fewer and fewer Portuguese in Macau. The exodus is not new, but it has worsened in recent years, mainly due to the constant confinements of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Besides this ‘flight’, Portugal’s interest in commercial cooperation with this former colony has also been falling, mainly due to other…interests.

Read also: Macau will suplly 100 kilos of masks every month to Portugal

There are many factors for this estrangement. Arnaldo Gonçalves, who was a cabinet advisor to the Portuguese government in Macau between 1990 and 1997 and who is president of the Luso-Asian Forum, explained some of them to us, starting with the reasons for the departure of the Macau community, where he highlighted, among others, nostalgia and the restricted Covid-19 policy imposed by China.

“People went to Macau to develop a medium-term life project, but the inhospitable environment since the implementation of the Covid-zero policy has imposed restrictions and limitations on movement that it becomes difficult to maintain for a long time. The Portuguese living in Macau have families in Portugal and many times their children are studying here and it is not natural that they are deprived of close contact, especially because the conditions of return to Macau with compulsory confinement are very hard,” he began by saying, later referring to another aspect, in his view, very important to this exodus.

“Portugal focused on its role in the European Union and with the end of its responsibilities over Macau, it stepped back. It was a natural development,” Arnaldo Gonçalves, president of the Luso-Asian Forum.

“Portugal focused on its role in the European Union and, with the end of its responsibilities over Macau, it moved away. It was a natural development,” Arnaldo Gonçalves, president of the Luso-Asian Forum.

“The lesser use of Portuguese in communication and official documents, the preference in the job market for Chinese citizens has also had a very strong impact on this reduction. I wonder if there are more than 3,000 Portuguese living in Macau right now. I don’t count here the Macanese community, which has a specific status in Macau and from what I understand from a distance is seen by the Central Government as a minority in China,” he pointed out.

THE DISTANCING FROM PORTUGAL

Criticism of Portugal, of the Government, has arisen over the years from the Portuguese community. Arnaldo Gonçalves spoke of this theme as early as 2017: “Portugal focused on its role in the European Union and with the end of its responsibilities over Macau, it pulled away. It was a natural development.

Also read: Public health conference brings together doctors from Macau, Angola and Portugal

Portuguese public opinion’s sensitivity about Macau has also decreased as time has passed.”

Now, however, he does not see much that the Government of Portugal can do.

“The Government monitors developments in Macau and has taken a position on events that have taken place. I recall the exclusion of “democratic” candidates in the elections for the Macau Legislative Assembly, the guidelines of the TDM administration for Portuguese journalists who work there in terms of news content. Statements have been made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs calling on China to respect the letter and spirit of the Basic Law and the framework of fundamental rights.

Institutionally we cannot go further because there is no body created by the Basic Law to monitor the fulfillment of the obligations imposed by the same law in the framework of the second transition that goes until 2049. This is an undeniable fact”, said Arnaldo Gonçalves, who advised Carlos Melancia, the former Governor of Macau who recently passed away.

Two weeks ago Macau’s deputy, José Pereira Coutinho, also revealed that the local government discriminated against the Lusophone community by cancelling the last day of the Lusophone Festival. We then asked Arnaldo Gonçalves if there might be some sense of discrimination in the Community.

Also read: Macau: Majority of students do not want to return to Portugal

“I haven’t lived in Macau for three years, so I don’t have a consistent knowledge of what’s going on. What I know comes from a distance. However, it seems to me that there has been less appreciation of the Portuguese component of Macau’s culture, history, and way of life. The Central Government’s orientation is strongly nationalistic and this is reflected in the mistrust of what is foreign and European. It’s a national phenomenon in China that, given the strengthening of the link between the Macau elite and Beijing, has worsened,” said the professor of Political Science and International Relations.

INVESTMENTS OR LACK OF THEM

In short, the trend will be for the Portuguese community to become smaller and smaller in Macau. Business or future economic cooperation between Portugal and Macau could be saved, but Arnaldo Gonçalves also frowns on that possibility.

“I don’t know Consul Alexandre Leitão […] I hope he will maintain a position of cordial articulation with the Macau SAR Government and listen and transmit to Lisbon the problems and difficulties of the Portuguese community in Macau,” Arnaldo Gonçalves. In the photo: Alexandre Leitão, new Consul General of Portugal in Macau and Hong Kong.

“Macau is not a priority for Portuguese exports and investment. Portugal is focused on Europe and on relations with Portuguese Africa. Portugal has maintained an affable and constant relationship with China. I have been following this for a book I am writing. The presidents of China and Portugal have communicated, via telephone, periodically in recent years seeing China an important role for our country in the energy issue and in the framework of the One Belt, One Road Initiative. Sines and the Azores have been spoken of in that perspective,” he said, noting, however, that even China itself has other interests outside Portugal.

Read also: Taiwan: A growing community in Portugal

“The Chinese authorities would like Portugal to have an independent position because it is well known that the European Union has its own strategy for linking communications routes to Central Asia and the East, which does not coincide with Chinese objectives. Portugal has made the possible balance between these desiderata. On the other hand, both António Costa and Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa have reaffirmed to the Chinese the interest in receiving Chinese investments and having Chinese companies operate in Portugal. Here the issue is that Beijing has focused on Asia-Pacific and no longer has so much interest in the European market,” he said.

“I don’t know Consul Alexandre Leitão […] I hope he will maintain a position of cordial articulation with the Macau SAR Government and listen and transmit to Lisbon the problems and difficulties of the Portuguese community in Macau,” Arnaldo Gonçalves. In the photo: Alexandre Leitão, Portugal’s new Consul General in Macau and Hong Kong.

Portugal’s General Consulate in Macau. Photography by João Monteiro.

Recently there was a change in the Consulate of Portugal in Macau. Paulo Cunha Alves stepped down and Alexandre Leitão stepped in. While praising his predecessor, Arnaldo Gonçalves gave the new consul some advice.

“From the contacts I had with Ambassador Paulo Cunha Alves, he was always a very nice and courteous person and maintained an appropriate institutional position in relations with the Macau SAR Government. He was a discreet consul, which I believe is always desirable in our diplomatic practice. I do not know Consul Alexandre Leitão, I only know that he is a diplomat close to the Prime Minister, with whom I think he has worked. I hope that he will maintain a position of cordial articulation with the Macau SAR Government and listen to and convey to Lisbon the problems and difficulties of the Portuguese community in Macau, so that they may be followed up. We do not abandon our compatriots wherever they live. Compliance with the Basic Law of the Macao SAR in the second transitional period is imperative and anything that might disturb it should be avoided,” he concluded.

Este artigo está disponível em: Português 繁體中文

Related posts
MacaoPortugal

37 boats travel from the stevedoring dock to Macau

Assine nossa Newsletter