Chinese Casino Hub Macau’s Elite Choose New Leader

Written by:
Associated Press
Published on:

MACAU (AP) – An elite pro-Beijing panel on Sunday chose a new leader for the Chinese casino gambling hub Macau.

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Ho Iat-seng was picked to be the next chief executive of the former Portuguese colony in a selection process with no other candidates.

Ho, a pro-establishment businessman and politician, will become the city’s third leader since China took control of Macau in 1999 after more than four centuries of Portuguese rule.

Ho will replace the city’s current leader, Chui Sai-on, whose term expires in December.

Macau and nearby Hong Kong are former European colonies that were handed back to Beijing, becoming Chinese special administrative regions that retain considerable control over their own affairs under a formula known as “one country, two systems.”

Residents of the two cities can elect some politicians, but the top leader is handpicked by members of an elite committee who fall in line with the wishes of China’s communist leaders.

While Hong Kong has been gripped by two months of turbulent anti-government protests demanding full democracy, Ho’s anointment went ahead with little controversy, highlighting Macau’s much weaker opposition movement. Officials said the 62-year-old Ho garnered 392 votes from Macau’s 400-member “election committee.”

He said he was confident that Hong Kong’s protest movement, which began with calls to scrap an unpopular China extradition bill, would not last.

“The protests against the extradition bill will end,” Ho said at a news conference, adding that the demonstrations were taking a toll on the enclave’s tourism industry.

Residents in Macau, who have benefited from economic growth supercharged by casino revenues, showed little interest in changing the system.

“As long as no major incidents occur now and it won’t affect the livelihoods and income of the Macau people, I won’t be against Macau’s electoral system,” said Gavin Au, 16.

Macau, an hour by high-speed ferry from Hong Kong, is the world’s biggest casino gambling market. The region collected $37.6 billion in gaming revenues in 2018, a 14 percent increase over 2017, dwarfing the more than $6 billion collected on the Las Vegas Strip.

Macau is fueled by high-rolling mainland Chinese gamblers wagering at glitzy resorts run by companies including Nevada gaming giants Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International.

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