• Short Summary

    Sitting like a forgotten pimple on the fact of China is the tiny Portuguese province of MACAO.

  • Description

    Sitting like a forgotten pimple on the fact of China is the tiny Portuguese province of MACAO.

    In all the recent political upheaval in Portugal, Macao has been least affected by changes in foreign policy in Lisbon.

    Peking too, for the moment, has been ignoring the Portuguese presence there. But the people of this old city are becoming increasingly obsessed with the question of Macao's future.

    Unless you come from Mainland China, there's only one way to reach Macau, and that's by water. Every half hour, the sleek Italian built hydrofils skim into the harbour at the end of their seventy five minute crossing from Hong Kong, forty miles to the north. They are the lifeblood of this sleepy Portuguese province, bringing the tourists who come in their thousands to gamble, to buy souvenirs, to walk the cobbled streets. Without them, Macau probably could not exist. The founding of Hong Kong in 1840 soon led to the declining importance of Macau as a trading port, and the city has lapsed into a almost total insignificance as a business centre. but for the tourist it is rich in heritage...

    With the first traders came the missionaries who were to bring the faith to China. The missionaries and their schools still remain in Macau, but their patrimony declined with the fortunes of their earliest churches.

    The facade of the ill-fated Church of St Paul stands at the summit of a granite staircase. There's been a church on this peak since 1601, but the present facade was built in the 1620's. The church itself was destroyed by fire in 1835, and the ruins have become one of Macau's greatest tourist attractions. The Portuguese province was well guarded against attack by other nations and Chinese pirates.

    The fortress of St Paul was one of several forts built to defend the city. It stands on a hill in the centre of Macau, from where its guns had a command ???eld of fire over most of the sea ???es. When the Dutch attacked it in 1622, it was staunchly defended by members of the church militia, and the Dutch were repulsed.

    "ALTHOUGH MANY TOURISTS COME TO MACAU TO WANDER ITS COBBLED STREETS, TO LOOK AT SOME OF ITS FOUR HUNDRED YEARS OF HISTORY, MOST PEOPLE COME HERE SIMPLY TO GAMBLE. MACAU HAS THREE CASINOS, INCLUDING ONE FLOATING ESTABLISHMENT, BUT THE BIGGEST, AND PERHAPS DEPENDING ON YOUR TASTE THE UGLIEST, IS THE CASINO LIS???........."
    This is the big income earner for Macau. Filming inside the casinos is prohibited, but if ever the phrase "a licence to print money" had any currency, it's here in Macau. The tables in the three casinos take in a reported six-hundred-million dollars Australian a year, but the Macau government receives less than two-million from the syndicate of Hong Kong Chinese who hold the franchises. The big rake-of in profits to Hong Kong is a source of bitterness to Macau, but it is a city which has learned to live with some rather curious deals.

    "JUST ACROSS THE BAY FROM THE .........

    ... FREE ENTERPRISE THAT EXISTS HERE IN MACAU"
    "BUT MR HO HAS ANOTHER ROLE ....BETWEEN THE TWO GOVERNMENTS"
    Little happens here before Ho Yin has his say. The extent of mainland China's influence on Macau was evident on the twenty fifth anniversary of National Day earlier this month. Although may of Macau's Chinese are refugees from the mainland, the spiritual and political homeland of many others lies across the border. Some hedge their bets, being content to live here while ever the Portuguese remain in control, but at the same time ready to adapt should the province ever be returned to the mainland. The Portuguese authorities would not allow marches or street demonstrations to mark national day - but that didn't stop the noon day celebrations as long streams of fireworks were touched off outside the main Chinese buildings in the city. For almost an hour the streets echoed and re-echoed to the constant crackle of gunpowder.

    In a reflection of Macau's ailing economy, the decorations and displays were not as lavish this year, despite the significance of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary. The Communists in Macau, like most other people, have been forced to tighten their belts as inflation reaches even this remote and isolated part of the world.

    Even more so than in Hong Kong, China appears to completely dominate Portuguese Macau. The mainland lies just six hundred metres away across the hold harbour, the Chinese gunboats can often be seen sailing up the narrow river to ports on the mainland side. Many of the refugees to Macau swam across this stretch of water during the fifties and sixties, and the occasional swimmer still arrives even today.

    Many of the boat people live almost in limbo between Macau and the mainland. Their mornings in the old harbour look straight across the mainland hills and Macanese and Chinese vessels pass within touching distance as they make their way to their respective home ports. In the centre of this Chinese puzzle, the Portuguese governor rules the province from his pink office block on the Praia Grande. He's advised by a council, which not surprisingly, includes Peking's unofficial voicepiece, Mr Ho Yin. Although the Portuguese flag flies here, the administration manages to keep a very low profile. The existence of the Portuguese possession has always depended on the triangle of agreement between Lisbon, Peking and the people of Macau. Now, despite pro-Communist feelings of many Chinese here, most seem eager to continue the old arrangement whereby east and west do meet, if ??? loosely.

    So, despite the present uncertainty, Macau seems destined to remain under Portuguese rule for some time to come. Life for the working class Chinese here is hard, but most seem to prefer the inequities of today rather than the uncertainties of tomorrow. A historian once said that Macau had never lived by honest toil - but I think that applied to the rich, not to the poor.

  • Tags

  • Data

    Film ID:
    VLVAEANTXSCZ9CUUZ0EO6I1RZXXJ2
    Media URN:
    VLVAEANTXSCZ9CUUZ0EO6I1RZXXJ2
    Group:
    Reuters - Source to be Verified
    Archive:
    Reuters
    Issue Date:
    01/01/1975
    Sound:
    Unknown
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Stock:
    Colour
    Duration:
    00:08:16:00
    Time in/Out:
    /
    Canister:
    N/A

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