Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On highlighted on Wednesday Macau’s pivotal role in the amicable relationship between China and Portugal, pointing out that the special administrative region is in a privileged position to help advance cooperation between the two sides.
Chui made the remarks in speech at a dinner banquet at MGM in Nape in honour of Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa last night.
Rebelo de Sousa, who had arrived in Macau on Tuesday night after visiting Beijing and Shanghai, departed Macau after the banquet. He crossed the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge (HZMB) en route to Hong Kong International Airport where he took a flight home.
During his two-day visit to Macau, the final leg of his six-day state visit to China, Portugal’s 70-year-old head of state repeatedly underlined Macau’s uniqueness. “Macau is different,” he said on several occasions.
In his speech at the banquet, Chui pointed out that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Portuguese Republic, based on the two nations’ “profound friendship”.
Chui also underlined the fruitful work of the Macau-Portugal Joint Commission, which was set up in 2011 and will hold its sixth meeting in Lisbon in the middle of this month, coinciding with his official visit to Portugal.
The chief executive, whose term ends at midnight on December 19, also emphasised Macau’s role as a business service platform between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries.
Chui also thanked the Portuguese president for his country’s support of, and participation in the central government’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), adding that he was confident that Portugal would become the European pivot of the initiative launched by President Xi Jinping. Chui noted that Macau is an important BRI participant.
The chief executive also stressed Macau’s participation in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) project, which comprises nine cities in Guangdong province and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
Chui said that Macau would actively assist companies from the Portuguese-speaking world in selling their products and services in the GBA.
The chief executive also said that the local government would continue to support the teaching of the Portuguese language in Macau and encourage more cultural exchanges between China and Portugal.
The Portuguese president said in his speech that his visit to Macau was “unforgettable.” According to Portuguese media reports, Rebelo de Sousa’s last visit to Macau took place 31 years ago.
The Portuguese president thanked the local government for its hospitality. He pointed out that his state visit began with his participation in the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing late last week.
During his stay in Beijing, Rebelo de Sousa held talks with Xi and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
‘Ancient, intense, promising’
Rebelo de Sousa, a former TV commentator and law professor, described relations between Portugal and Macau as “ancient, intense and promising”.
Portuguese seafarers arrived in Macau in the mid-16th century. Macau returned to Chinese rule in December 1999. Rebelo de Sousa pointed out that until the 1999 change in administration China always regarded Macau as a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration, not as a Portuguese colony.
Rebelo de Sousa also said in his speech that he was looking forward to the further deepening of cooperation between Portugal and Macau in a wide range of areas such as Portuguese-language teaching, trade, investments, tourism, science and technology, and higher education.
Chui and Rebelo de Souso met at Government Headquarters yesterday morning for a formal meeting.
According to a statement by the Macau Government Information Bureau (GCS), Chui told the Portuguese president during the closed-door meeting that the two sides were paying great attention to the teaching of the Portuguese language in Macau. Chui also mentioned the government’s plan to expand the facilities of the local Portuguese School.
According to sources cited by the Portuguese-language radio channel of government-owned broadcaster TDM, the government has already set aside a plot of land for the new campus of the Portuguese School on newly reclaimed land.
Portuguese School expansion ‘agreed’
According to Xinhua, Chui said during the meeting that the local government had agreed in principle to the Portuguese School’s expansion plan and would continue to support the school’s development.
Rebelo de Sousa visited the Portuguese School after attending a reception hosted by the Portuguese Consulate-General at the official residence of the consul-general on Penha Hill. He also visited the Holy House of Mercy and strolled from Largo do Senado to the Ruins of St. Paul’s
During the walkabout, Rebelo de Sousa said he was willing to visit Macau again soon, possibly as early as in December when Macau celebrates the 20th anniversary of its reversion from Portuguese to Chinese rule. However, he was quick to add that the timing of his next visit to Macau would depend on Beijing.
During the amble, Rebelo de Sousa also underlined the rich heritage of Macau’s multiculturalism. He even savoured Macau-style egg tarts and Chinese tea during the walkabout.
During his tour of the city, the Portuguese president repeatedly stressed that Sino-Portuguese relations are “excellent” and that “Macau is different” from any other place in the world. He indicated that Macau makes the “excellent” relationship between China and Portugal even “more special”, adding that “Macau has always been different”.
Asked by Portuguese journalists about alleged violations of the Macau Basic Law by the local authorities, Rebelo de Sousa declined to comment on the matter. However, he stressed that China and Portugal are maintaining a permanent dialogue on legal matters in Macau.
In an informal address at the reception hosted by the Portuguese Consulate-General, Rebelo de Sousa said – apparently tongue-in-cheek – that while Macau was benefiting from China’s age-old wisdom, the city was also occasionally benefiting from some “Portuguese agitation”.