Known for its casinos and conservative society, the city-state of Macau is a magnet for the rich in search of decadent fun. It is rarely the site of political protest. But on August 25th around 1,000 of Macau’s dealers and servers took to the streets to demand pay hikes and better working conditions. They are among those who support an unofficial referendum on Macau’s political future, which began on August 24th at polling stations and online. Jason Chao, a 29-year-old software developer and the president of the Open Macau Society, a local pro-democracy group which helped sponsor the poll, hoped it would “help people draw connections between things like inflation and high cost of housing and the political system.” The poll asked residents if they support universal suffrage by 2019; and whether they have confidence in Macau’s current chief executive, Fernando Chui, who is running unopposed for re-election later this week, on August 31st—the same day the poll results are due to be released.
Protests in the city-state began in May, when 20,000 Macanese marched against a bill that would give lavish benefits to retiring officials. The government dropped it. Activists then began pushing for better government accountability, inspired by Hong Kong’s Occupy Central protests, a civil disobedience movement during which 800,000 people voted in a poll in June to demand “genuine” universal suffrage in the city’s next elections.
But on the first day of unofficial voting in Macau, police dashed hopes for reform when they arrested five polling-station volunteers, including Mr Chao, for failing to comply with a government order to halt the referendum. All five were released, but Mr Chao now faces a legal battle after prosecutors charged him with “serious disobedience with police”. Maya Wang, a researcher on China for Human Rights Watch, says the arrests appear to be politically motivated.
Full Article: Protests in Macau: Chipping in | The Economist.