MACAU (AFP) – According to official media, China’s senior ambassador in Macau would begin counselling the local administration on “national security” issues, the latest attempt by Beijing to strengthen control over the gaming enclave.
According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, Liaison Office Director Fu Ziying would be in charge of “supervising, leading, coordinating, and assisting Macau in ensuring national security.”
It was also said that three national security technical advisers will be chosen from inside the Liaison Office.
Macau, like neighbouring Hong Kong, is a “semi-autonomous” portion of China that is allowed to conduct its own affairs.
Following massive and frequently violent democratic rallies in Hong Kong two years ago, Beijing utilised a sweeping new national security statute to crack down on dissent.
Since then, the Liaison Office has played a more active role in administration, and China’s mainland security apparatus now works openly in Hong Kong.
Macau, which has had its own national security statute in place since 2009, has not had similar turmoil, but Beijing is taking no risks and has increased surveillance of the former Portuguese territory.
Earlier this year, police in the area prohibited a modest vigil commemorating the anniversary of China’s deadly 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, citing the event’s potential to “incite subversion.”
It was the first official indication that commemorating Tiananmen Square is now considered subversive, as it is on the mainland, and was a further blow to the city’s limited political liberties.
On national security concerns, authorities eventually barred 21 candidates, the most of whom were from the city’s small pro-democracy sector, from running in parliamentary elections.
They were accused of betraying China after remembering the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and honouring rights leader and Beijing critic Liu Xiaobo.
The appointment of a top Chinese official to handle national security comes as authorities increase their supervision of Macau’s casino sector, which is the backbone of the local economy.
In September, officials revealed intentions to place government representatives on the boards of licenced operators to monitor their operations, as well as to criminalise underground banking in the industry, causing casino operator share values to plummet.
Last week, Alvin Chau, the CEO of the city’s largest junket operator, was arrested for conducting illicit betting operations, causing more concern in the gambling sector.