Macao’s top court will move to the long-vacant old courthouse in the city centre, Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon has announced.
Cheong made the announcement during a press conference after Friday’s regular meeting of the Executive Council, the government’s top advisory body.
Cheong, who is the council’s spokesman, said that the old courthouse in Avenida da Praia Grande had the “architectural and historical features” to house judicial facilities such as the Court of Final Appeal (TUI).
Public broadcaster Rádio Macau reported on Wednesday that the government had decided not to go ahead with the controversial project by its predecessor to redevelop the old courthouse into the city’s new central library.
The Macau Post Daily on Thursday cited sources of Macao’s legal fraternity as saying that the old courthouse was an “ideal” place to house the special administrative region’s highest court.
Lawmakers and community leaders have urged the government for years to construct a purpose-built edifice for the new central library, instead of redeveloping the old courthouse for the project, which for some 15 years never got off the ground for a variety of reasons, such as the cancellation of its first design tender and complaints about its “unsuitable” location in a highly congested area in the city centre.
Residents have also complained about the perilously narrow pavement in front of the main entrance to the old courthouse.
Cheong said that the government was still looking for a suitable location for the new central library. However, he insisted that the new central library will certainly be built in a residential neighbourhood on the peninsula.
Old Estoril Hotel to house new central library?
Several civic leaders contacted by the Macau Post Daily at the weekend about the matter suggested that the government redevelop the long-abandoned Estoril Hotel in Praça do Tap Seac into the new central library. “The location is ideal as it is very central and easy to reach,” one of the community representatives said, asking to remain anonymous. The previous government had proposed the old hotel’s redevelopment into a youth centre. The project never got off the ground.
The central library is currently housed in a listed building in Praça do Tap Seac, just across the square from the old Estoril Hotel.
The old courthouse, built in 1951, initially housed Macao’s then Portuguese administration’s financial and economic services departments and later its courts. The three-story building in Portugal’s “Estado Novo” style has been vacant for nearly two decades and has been used for temporary exhibitions in the past few years.
Currently, the Court of Final Appeal shares a building with the Court of Second Instance (TSI) in the Nam Van Lake district. Members of Macao’s legal fraternity have described the building as “nondescript”.
Meanwhile, Cheong also confirmed last week’s media reports that the government has cancelled its predecessor’s plan to build a “judicial complex” on reclaimed land off the MGM resort in Nape. The policy secretary said the government believed that at least part of the area could instead be used for the development of high-grade office buildings of which there is a lack in Macao.
Details of the government’s urban development projects are expected to be revealed when its urban master plan’s public consultation process starts on Friday.