Any rash alterations to Macao’s street names will endanger the co-existence of Chinese and Portuguese features in Macao, potentially affecting Macao’s strategic position as the bridge between China and Lusophone countries, said Paul Chan Wai Chi, a high school history teacher and former legislator.
“Changing the names of streets and roads of Macao is against the central government’s original intention,” said Chan, referring to what he sees as the tolerance of the central government to Macao’s history and uniqueness. “It is the foundation on which the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and Macao’s position as the China-Lusophone platform was laid,” Chan elaborated.
Chan was asked by the Times to comment on the proposal to eradicate “colonial street names that constitute insults to China,” as referred to by Chan Pou Sam, an advisor at the Municipal Affairs Bureau (IAM).
Although the IAM responded on Tuesday, saying that it has no plan to change existing street or road names in Macao, the advisor deems the change necessary as it is crucial to decolonising Macao.
He even cited the national security law of Hong Kong to support his proposal. He said that as the law has been passed in the neighbouring territory, Macao residents should also have their sense of national recognition strengthened. He therefore believes it necessary to dilute the colonial elements from Macao’s culture.
Paul Chan did not agree with the comparison to Hong Kong’s new law. He pointed out that the societies of the two Special Administrative Regions are very different, and hence, the best means of managing them are also different.
“Since the two cities have different social characteristics, the means of handling things are also different,” the history teacher explained. “No one should damage the harmony of Macao for the sake of showing allegiance.”
It is possible that the IAM advisor is not referring to all streets across the city, given he has been quoted as saying, “I don’t support a big change, because if we changed them all, it would cause a lot of confusion in people’s lives.”
Nonetheless, his proposal, revealed last week by Jornal Tribuna de Macau, included Praça Ferreira do Amaral, Rua do General Castelo Branco and Rua de Pedro Nolasco da Silva. These are Portuguese figures who had an impact on Macao’s history.
For example, Ferreira do Amaral was a Macao governor who was assassinated because of his iron-fist governance, which included the destruction of numerous Chinese graves to pave roads.
In Chan Pou Sam’s opinion, the story behind the name of the roundabout has negative associations for future generations and should be changed.
Paul Chan disagrees with this reasoning, explaining that “history is the root of past experience and future visions.” He added that unless the names are extremely offensive, they should not be changed rashly.
In the proposal, the advisor also listed some street names that, in his opinion, are “too long, too wordy and too incomprehensible” due to their translation from Portuguese to Chinese, such as Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro and Avenida do Conselheiro Ferreira de Almeida.
The former is widely referred to as “San Ma Lo”, meaning “new road” in Cantonese. Senior residents noted that it was the first major avenue in Macao, which acknowledges the direct connection between the southeast and west sides of the Macao Peninsula.
The latter road is referred to as “Ho Lan Un” in Cantonese, which is literally translated into English as “Holland Garden”. The name is used because in 1622, the Portuguese army defeated a Dutch invasion force and took some soldiers captive. They were held near the now Horta da Mitra District, where the avenue begins.
Chan Pou Sam is also the vice president of the Macao Jiangmen Communal Society.