Activists in the Chinese territory of Macau say they plan to hold an informal referendum on direct elections after a similar effort in Hong Kong attracted a large turnout and helped publicize residents’ aspirations for democratic change. Like Hong Kong, Macau’s top official is chosen by a largely pro-establishment body of electors who are unlikely to challenge China’s central government. The chief executive of Macau, Fernando Chui, is expected to be granted a second five-year term by the 400-member election commission when he faces re-election on Aug. 31.
A former Portuguese colony of about 600,000 residents that returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999, Macau is the only part of China where gambling is legal. Its gambling turnover has grown rapidly over the past decade and now dwarfs Las Vegas thanks to a steady influx of players from mainland China.
While the success of the casino industry has made Macau’s per capita gross domestic product one of the highest in the world, residents have expressed growing concerns about housing prices, income inequality and corruption. In May, thousands of people in Macau demonstrated against a bill that would provide top officials with substantial retirement benefits.