A Lotus in Its Prime—Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Macao's Return to the Motherland
On December 20, 1999, the Chinese government resumed its exercise of sovereignty over Macao, established the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR), and implemented "one country, two systems" and the policies of Macao being ruled by its own citizens and enjoying a high degree of autonomy, ushering in a new chapter in the historical development of Macao. The year 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of Macao's return to China. Fully affirming Macao's tremendous achievements in development after its return to China, drawing on its experience of success with "one country, two systems," and building a greater understanding of the rules underlying the practice of "one country, two systems" are tasks that are important and profoundly significant to our efforts to thoroughly study and implement Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, especially Xi Jinping's statements on work involving Hong Kong and Macao, and promote "one country, two systems" more effectively according to the demands of the new era.
I. Macao's unique experience has proven that "one country, two systems" has worked successfully and earned the support of the people.
During a meeting with Ho Lat Seng, the newly elected fifth-term Chief Executive of the Macao SAR appointed by the central government, on September 11, 2019, General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out that the historic achievements that Macao has made since its return to the motherland 20 years ago have demonstrated to the world its success in the practice of "one country, two systems". The facts have proven that "one country, two systems" has worked successfully and earned the support of the people.
Over the past 20 years, with the support of the central government and the mainland and under the leadership of chief executives Ho Hau Wah and Cui Shian, the government of the Macao SAR has united and led all social sectors in the region, brought the institutional strength of "one country, two systems" fully to bear, captured enormous success in various undertakings, and convincingly demonstrated the vitality of "one country, two systems." Today's Macao is dazzling the world, like a pearl adorning the rim of the South China Sea.
Macao's people are masters of their own affairs.
In line with the Basic Law, the Macao SAR exercises executive, legislative, and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, and administers its own affairs within the limits of its autonomy. Over the past 20 years, the Macao SAR has successfully elected chief executives for five terms and legislative councils for six terms in a law-based manner, truly ensuring that the people of Macao are masters of their own affairs, with patriots playing the principal role. During this period, Macao also elected deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) for five terms. The region now has 12 NPC deputies and 37 members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) who participate in national affairs. The people of Macao now enjoy broader democratic rights and freedoms than at any time in their history.
On the evening of September 30, 2019, a light show celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC sponsored by the Macao Government Tourism Office took place at the Ruins of St. Paul's, one of Macao's famous landmarks. Dazzling lights were projected onto the ruins, showing scene after scene of the Macao community celebrating the National Day. The show reflected Macao people's love and best wishes for our country. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER ZHANG JINJIA
Macao's economy has developed in leaps and bounds.
Between 1999 and 2018, Macao's GDP increased from 51.9 billion to 444.7 billion patacas, representing an annual average growth rate of 7.7% in real terms. Meanwhile, its GDP per capita grew from US$15,000 to US$83,000. By the end of 2018, Macao's fiscal surplus totaled 505.6 billion patacas, and its foreign exchange reserves were 163.6 billion patacas, 193 times and 6.2 times the 1999 figures, respectively. Macao has entered a period in which it is developing better and faster than ever before, becoming one of the regions with the most rapid economic growth in the world.
Macao's residents live and work in peace and contentment.
Between 1999 and 2018, Macao's unemployment rate dropped from 6.3% to 1.8%, and the median monthly income of its employed population increased from 4,920 to 16,000 patacas. Since 2007, Macao has implemented a system providing 15 years of free education from kindergarten to high school, and 38.1% of the local employed population has received higher education. Macao's primary health care system has been rated by the World Health Organization as a model for the Pacific region, while the average life expectancy of its residents has reached 84 years. The government led construction of 51,000 units of public housing to meet the needs of people in the low and medium income groups. It has established a two-tiered social security system supported by multiple sectors, and implemented policies to universally benefit the public, such as the Wealth Partaking Scheme, for many years running. An ideal blueprint for ensuring access to childcare, education, employment, medical services, elderly care, housing, and social assistance has gradually become a reality.
In May 2019, primary students of the Premier School Affiliated to Hou Kong Middle School in Macao wrote letters to Xi Jinping describing what the motherland means to them and expressing their determination to make Macao and China more beautiful once they grow up. On May 31, the day before International Children's Day, Xi Jinping sent them a response letter in which he offered them warm words of encouragement and his best wishes for a happy Children's Day. Pictured: Yu Yanqian reads Xi Jinping's reply. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER ZHANG JINJIA
Macao's society is stable and harmonious overall.
The executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the SAR have carried out their respective duties and responsibilities in strict accordance with the Basic Law, advancing various pursuits in Macao through joint efforts. The government of the SAR has persisted in exercising governance in a prudent, pragmatic, and proactive manner, and bolstered communication and consultation with members of all social strata and people from all walks of life. All social sectors have carried forward the tradition of having pride in both Macao and the nation, kept the big picture in mind, valued consultation, and upheld solidarity, thus creating a social atmosphere in which the people understand each other and work together. The tone of public opinion has remained fair, with an overall sense of positivity. The public security situation has improved on the fundamental level, making society stable and peaceful and giving the people a stronger sense of security.
Macao's diverse culture is building renewed appeal.
Famous for its history and its blend of Chinese and Western culture, Macao has carried forward and developed Chinese culture while maintaining its unique diversity. The region boasts mixed Chinese and Western architecture, amity and mutual assistance between people of different races, harmonious coexistence of different religions, and a vibrant variety of customs, making it a happy home to people of different races and creeds. The Historic Center of Macao has been included on UNESCO's World Heritage List, and the region also boasts numerous examples of national-level intangible cultural heritage. Over time, Macao has also developed a spectacular festival culture, making a name for itself as the host of grand events and a haven for foodies. As a world-renowned tourist destination, Macao attracts nearly 40 million tourists each year, showing its unique charm as a sanctuary that visitors do not want to leave because it allows them to forget about their troubles and lose track of time.
Macao's international influence is expanding.
With the authorization and support of the central government, Macao has continuously expanded exchanges with the outside world and enhanced its international influence. At present, Portugal and three other countries have set up consulates general in the SAR, Macao has become a participant in 120 international organizations, more than doubling the number before its return to China, and 144 countries and regions have granted visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to Macao passport holders. Macao has hosted five consecutive ministerial conferences of the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation Between China and Portuguese-speaking Countries, exerting its unique role as a platform for Chinese-Portuguese business and trade cooperation. The Chinese region of Macao is calmly and confidently facing the world and becoming more globally integrated, actively contributing its own wisdom and strength to the development of a global community with a shared future and China's participation in global governance.
II. Ensuring that the "one country, two systems" policy is fully and precisely implemented without modification or distortion is the key to Macao's unique success.
Over the past 20 years, the central government has upheld "one country, two systems" as a fundamental state policy, and the mainland has consistently supported Macao's development. The government of Macao and all social sectors in the region have advocated patriotism, maintained full and precise implementation of the "one country, two systems" policy, and focused wholeheartedly on pursuing development, progress, and harmony. The most important lesson from all of the experience that has been gained over the past 20 years is that we must maintain a firm grasp of the fundamental purpose of the "one country, two systems" policy so that we can resolutely safeguard our national sovereignty, security, and development interests, preserve Macao's prosperity and stability over the long term, and ensure that "one country, two systems" is not modified or distorted in practice.
Macao has acted in strict accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, and properly handled its relationship with the central government.
Macao has persisted in closely integrating efforts to safeguard the central government's overall jurisdiction with efforts to guarantee the SAR's high degree of autonomy, and attached fundamental importance to identifying with the country, upholding the central government's authority, and respecting the socialist system practiced by the bulk of the country and the governing position of the CPC. It has resolutely upheld constitutional order in the SAR as stipulated in the Constitution and the Basic Law, and fulfilled the constitutional responsibility of safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests. In 2009, Macao took the lead in formulating and implementing the National Security Law. Since then, it has continued to refine supporting legal systems, established the National Security Committee, and held the first educational exhibition on national security, further strengthening national consciousness in its society and vigorously safeguarding China's core interests. Macao has respected the central government's leadership and decision-making authority over development of the region's government system. In line with the Basic Law and relevant decisions of the NPC Standing Committee, it has steadily advanced the development of a democratic government system according to actual conditions in Macao in a step-by-step manner that ensures balanced participation. As a result, the membership of the chief executive election committee has increased from 300 to 400, and the number of seats in the Legislative Council has increased from 23 to 33. Through revision of local legislation on the electoral system of the Legislative Council, Macao has made it clear that candidates must support the Basic Law and be loyal to the SAR, and that members of the Legislative Council may not concurrently hold political positions in other countries, thereby guaranteeing that political power is held by patriotic individuals in the SAR. Judicial organs have properly applied the stipulations of the Basic Law when handling cases, and resolutely upheld the "one country, two systems" policy, the central government's overall jurisdiction, and the SAR's political system in which the executive branch plays the leading role. They have also safeguarded the legitimate rights and interests of residents and litigants in Macao, and exercised judicial authority in an independent and law-based manner. This reflects the enormous advances that Macao has made in developing the rule of law. In addition, Macao has applied relevant stipulations in the Basic Law to establish the Municipal Affairs Bureau, a non-political municipal institution, and completed relevant local legislation to guarantee the implementation of the National Anthem Law in Macao.