MACAU, Macau (AFP) – Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Hong Kong and Macau on Saturday to remember they are part of “one China”, as pro-democracy campaigners in both semi-autonomous territories call for free leadership elections.
Dozens of protesters marched through Macau’s historic centre Saturday afternoon as Xi wrapped up his two-day visit, just days after police cleared the last remaining protest sites in neighbouring Hong Kong.
Residents of all ages walked in the middle of the road through the historic district shouting: “We want universal suffrage” through megaphones, some wrapped in banners and others with slogans painted across their faces.
“I am uncertain about Macau’s future, so we have to come out to make noise for ourselves,” said Mark Pang, a 15-year-old high school student who held up an open yellow umbrella — the symbol of the Hong Kong democracy movement.
Xi warned both territories on Saturday against a “misguided approach”.
“We must both adhere to the ‘one China’ principle and respect the difference of the two systems,” Xi said at the inauguration of Macau’s chief executive Fernando Chui, who was selected for a second term by a pro-Beijing committee in August.
“At no time should we focus only on one side to the neglect of the other. This is the only way leading to sound and steady progress. Otherwise a misguided approach from the beginning, just like putting one’s left foot into the right shoe, would lead us to nowhere,” Xi said.
Security has been tight during the trip with reporters on the airport tarmac waiting for Xi’s arrival Friday not allowed to hold umbrellas and handed raincoats instead.
A small group of protesters attempted to walk to where Xi was staying while holding yellow umbrellas. Police stopped them, saying the area was “restricted”.
There were also reports that some visitors and reporters from Hong Kong were denied entry after being told their names were on a blacklist.
Both Macau and Hong Kong enjoy freedoms unseen on the mainland — but their leaders are selected by a loyalist committee.
“In the light of Hong Kong’s umbrella movement, I think Macau people should escalate our actions for democracy,” local protest leader Jason Chao told AFP.
“We need a democratic political system in which the citizens can hold the officials accountable,” Chao said, adding that despite a huge economic boom in the gambling enclave in the past decade, the quality of life for citizens has been on the decline, with government officials seen as too close to big business.