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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 December 2007, 17:06 GMT
Protesters demand Macau democracy
A demonstrator holds a statue of the goddess of democracy during a protest in Macau (20/12/2007)
Macau's gambling revenues do not benefit the masses, protesters say
Hundreds of people have staged a rare anti-corruption demonstration in the Chinese region of Macau.

Protesters said a lack of democracy was preventing workers from benefiting from the territory's booming economy.

The demonstration marked the eighth anniversary of the former Portuguese colony becoming a special administrative region of China.

A senior official is currently on trial in Macau accused of taking tens of millions of dollars in bribes.

Without a democratic political system we will face a very serious corruption problem
Ng Kuok Cheong

The territory's economy relies heavily on tourism, and the expanding casino industry has brought in huge amounts of money and foreign investment.

The protesters said that without full democracy Macau's vast gambling revenue was not reaching the workers and poorer people in society.

"Even though we have a very good economic development, without a democratic political system we will face a very serious corruption problem, and the poverty problem," said opposition legislator Ng Kuok Cheong at the protest.

'Democratic enough'

Macau is governed from Beijing but has a similar administrative system to that of Hong Kong and a large degree of autonomy under the "one country, two systems" principle.

The leader is chosen by a Beijing-approved committee and only 12 of the 19 legislators are directly elected.


Billionaire Stanley Ho, who had a monopoly on Macau's casino industry until recent government reforms opened it up to foreign investors, dismissed the pro-democracy calls.

"Macau is democratic and free enough... it's prosperous enough. Why do people need to do this?" he said.

Macau's largest-ever corruption trial is currently under way.

Former Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Ao Man-long is accused of taking $100m (50m) in bribes from at least three property developers in exchange for approving construction deals.

Political demonstrations are rare in Macau but in May police fired guns in to the air to break up a protest against the use of cheap foreign labour.

Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho has not commented directly on the protests, but in a speech at a reception marking the anniversary he said he would increase transparency and communication with the Macau public.

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