The Municipal Affairs Bureau’s (IAM) recent decision to disallow a roving exhibition by the non-establishment Union for Democratic Development (UDD) about the June 4 incident was “not political” but for public health reasons, Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon told reporters on Tuesday.
Cheong made the remarks on the sidelines of a judicial swearing-in ceremony when asked by the media about the issue.
Cheong insisted that after perusing the relevant documentation on the issue, he has come to the conclusion that the bureau’s decision to disallow the roving exhibition was due to the “special situation” caused by the novel coronavirus epidemic.
The policy secretary said that the IAM decision was “not juridical, let alone political.”
Lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong, a UDD co-founder, told the radio channel of public broadcaster TDM last week that the bureau had “suddenly” withdrawn its authorisation for his activist group’s annual open-air roving exhibition about the so-called June 4 incident. Ng claimed that the de-authorisation was “politically motivated.”
IAM President José Tavares told Rádio Macau last week that the de-authorisation was due to a decision by the bureau’s administrative council to “standardise” all requests by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to use public spaces, i.e. the requests needed to match the bureau’s functions and powers. Tavares said that the bureau’s earlier decision to authorise the exhibition had failed to properly consider the situation so that the council needed to “rectify” it.
Asked about the de-authorisation, Cheong said that it was “normal” for public administration entities to correct their errors by changing a previous decision that turned out to be wrong.
He also said that the bureau’s decision was “reasonable” as the roving exhibition would have been held in public spaces frequented by many people, adding that therefore the decision was in line with the government’s COVID-19 prevention measures.
The exhibition was still on display in Praça do Tap Seac on Tuesday as Ng and his fellow activist-cum-lawmaker Au Kam San had formally objected to the de-authorisation of the roving exhibition.
According to TDM, their objection was rejected in a letter by the bureau on Tuesday. However, according to the report, both have the right to take the case to court. It quoted Ng as saying he hadn’t decided yet whether his group would take legal action.
The bureau had authorised previous June 4 open-air exhibitions and vigils by Ng’s group, which has held them annually since 1990, one year after the incident in Beijing. In recent years, a few hundred people have attended each annual vigil in the city centre. The roving exhibition of faded photos of the incident has been held at various public spaces every year.