Protesters march against Macau’s ‘brutal’ vehicle fee hike

Protesters Sunday afternoon marched against what they described as the “brutal” increase in the government’s vehicle-related fees and charges.

Lawmaker-cum-unionist Jose Pereira Coutinho, who led the march, told reporters that about 5,000 “outraged citizens” participated in the demonstration.

According to a statement by the Public Security Police (PSP), about 1,600 citizens joined the protest.

Supported by the Macau Civil Servants Association (ATFPM), which Coutinho heads, and the small-but-vocal Workers’ Self-Help Union, the protest march started from Praça do Tap Seac and ended outside Government Headquarters in Nam Van, where Coutinho and other representatives handed a petition, addressed to Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On, to a low-ranking official.

A list of steeply increased fees and charges initiated by the Transport Bureau (DSAT) was signed by Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On last month and took effect on New Year’s Day.

During a press conference on Wednesday, DSAT Director Lam Hin San said the adjustments served the purpose of covering the costs of the vehicle-related services provided by bureau and controlling the number of vehicles in the city.

The fees had not been changed since 1998.

One of the most controversial items on the list was a 400 to 1,200 per cent increase in the charges for the removal of illegally parked vehicles. “It is reasonable for drivers who have violated the rules to bear the cost,” said Lam.

Speaking to reporters before the march, Coutinho described the “sudden” increase in the fees and charges as “brutal”. “Citizens won’t accept such a brutal increase,” he said.

Grassroots lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong, who also took part in the protest, described the government’s “secrecy” before announcing the immediate implementation of the increases as a “farce” and a “mistake”.

“It was totally unnecessary for the government to keep them [the increases] secret,” said Ng. He said that citizens had the right to know beforehand about the increases which would greatly affect their daily life.

(Macau News / The Macau Post Daily)