U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2002 - Macau
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||31 March 2003|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2002 - Macau , 31 March 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3e918c30c.html [accessed 1 February 2015]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Macau, a 13 square mile enclave on the south China coast, reverted from Portuguese to Chinese administration on December 20, 1999 (the handover). As a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China (PRC), Macau enjoys a high degree of autonomy except in defense and foreign affairs, and its citizens have basic freedoms and enjoy legally protected rights. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration (1987) and the Basic Law – the SAR's mini-constitution promulgated by China's National People's Congress (NPC) in March 1993 – specify that Macau is to continue to enjoy substantial autonomy and that its economic system and way of life are to remain unchanged for the first 50 years under PRC sovereignty. The Government is led by a Chief Executive, chosen by a 200-member Selection Committee, which is in turn chosen by a Preparatory Committee composed of 60 Macau and 40 mainland representatives appointed by the NPC. In September 2001, voters elected 10 of the legislature's 27 members in direct elections in geographical constituencies. Ten others were elected by interest groups in functional constituencies, and the remaining seven were appointed by the Chief Executive. There are limits on the types of bills that may be initiated by individual members of the legislature. After the handover, most of the laws previously in force continued to apply. The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice.
The police force is under civilian control. After peaking in 1999, serious organized crime-related violence appeared to have been curbed, and police reported a marked reduction in violent crime. A People's Liberation Army (PLA) garrison of 800 soldiers stationed in Macau played no role in internal security.
The market-based economy was fueled by textile and garment exports, along with tourism and gambling. The economy grew approximately 5 percent during the year. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was approximately $14,300. The population was approximately 450,000.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. These problems included occasional reports of police abuse, the limited ability of citizens to change their government, limits on the legislature's ability to initiate legislation, inadequate provision for persons with disabilities, and a lack of legal protection for strikes and collective bargaining rights.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
There were no reports of arbitrary or unlawful deprivations of life committed by the Government or its agents.
There was one report of a suspicious death in custody. In May a prisoner was taken from his cell and transferred to a police station for interrogation. While at the station he became ill and was taken to a hospital, where he died. A postmortem examination by the hospital found that he died of acute renal failure caused by assault with blunt force and had suffered from severe hepatic cirrhosis. The police carried out an investigation of possible police wrongdoing and passed their report to the Public Prosecutions Office; an investigation by the Public Prosecutions Office was pending at year's end.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits such practices, and the Government generally respected these provisions in practice; however, there were reports of police brutality during the year. In February two officers allegedly assaulted two Hong Kong journalists who sought to enter Macau to cover the visit of Li Peng, Chairman of the NPC. The police denied the allegations. Results of investigations into the incident conducted by the police and Procurator's Office were not available at year's end.
Prison conditions met international standards, but in the last few years the prison population has more than doubled to 886 (including male and female inmates), almost two-thirds of whom are from the PRC. Facilities and personnel have failed to keep pace. In 2000 the Secretary for Security announced plans to hold talks with PRC authorities on a prisoner transfer agreement. The two sides had not reached an agreement at year's end.
The Government has permitted prison visits by human rights observers, but there were no such visits during the year.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally respected these provisions in practice. An examining judge, who conducts a pretrial inquiry in criminal cases, has a wide range of powers to collect evidence, order or dismiss indictments, and determine whether to release detained persons. Police must present persons remanded in custody to an examining judge within 48 hours of detention. The accused person's counsel may examine the evidence. The law provides that cases must come to trial within 6 months of an indictment. The average length of pretrial incarceration was 3 months. Judges often refused bail in cases where sentences exceed 3 years. This practice contributed to overcrowding in prisons.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice. According to the Basic Law, the courts have the power of final adjudication over all cases that are within the autonomy of the SAR. The courts also may rule on matters that are "the responsibility of the Central People's Government or concern the relationship between the central authorities and the (Special Administrative) Region," but before making their final (i.e., nonappealable) judgment, the court must seek an interpretation of the relevant provisions from the Standing Committee of the NPC. When the Standing Committee makes an interpretation of the provisions concerned, the courts, in applying those provisions, "shall follow the interpretation of the Standing Committee." The Standing Committee must consult the NPC's Committee for the Basic Law of the Special Administrative Region before giving an interpretation of the law. This Committee is composed of 10 members, 5 from the SAR and 5 from the mainland. The Chief Executive, the President of the Legislative Assembly, and the President of the Court of Final Appeal nominate the SAR members.
The need to translate laws and judgments from Portuguese and a severe shortage of local bilingual lawyers and magistrates may have hampered development of the legal system. At year's end, 94 lawyers were registered with the Macau Lawyers Association, of whom 29 spoke Cantonese and 11 spoke Mandarin. The Government has instituted a rigorous postgraduate training program for magistrates who received legal training outside of the SAR. The judiciary was relatively inexperienced (the first law school opened in the early 1990s), and the lack of locally trained lawyers was a serious impediment to the development and maintenance of an independent judiciary.
According to the Basic Law, the Chief Executive appoints judges at all levels, acting on the recommendation of an "independent commission," which he appoints, composed of local judges, lawyers, and "eminent persons." The Basic Law stipulates that judges must be chosen on the basis of their professional qualifications. According to the law, judges may be removed only for criminal acts or an inability to discharge their functions. Except for the Chief Justice, who must be a Chinese citizen with no right of abode elsewhere, judges may be foreigners.
There are four courts: The Primary Court (with general jurisdiction at first instance); the Administrative Court (with jurisdiction of first instance in administrative disputes); the Court of Second Instance; and the Court of Final Appeal.
The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and the judiciary generally enforced this right. By law, trials are open to the public, except when publicity could cause great harm to the dignity of the persons, to public morals, or to the normal development of the trial. Such a decision must be revoked if those motives cease to exist, and the verdict must always be delivered in public. The Criminal Procedure Code provides for an accused person's right to be present during proceedings and to choose an attorney or request that one be provided at government expense. The 1997 Organized Crime Ordinance provides that "certain procedural acts may be held without publicity and that witness statements read in court are admissible as evidence." There also are additional restrictions on the granting of bail and suspended sentences in organized crime cases.
The judiciary generally provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process, but the average waiting period between the filing of a civil case and its scheduled hearing continued to be nearly 12 months, although it was reduced slightly during the year. Since 1991 all legislation has been issued simultaneously in Chinese and Portuguese. Laws issued between 1976 and 1991 have been translated into Chinese.
The Public Prosecutions Office (headed by a Public Prosecutor General) enjoys substantial autonomy from both the executive and the judiciary. The Basic Law stipulates that the Public Prosecutions Office's functions must be carried out without interference, and the law was generally respected in practice.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, and the Government generally respected these prohibitions in practice. A judge's authorization is required for any official interference in these areas. Any evidence obtained by means of wrongful interference in private life, home, correspondence, or telecommunications without the consent of the concerned person may not be used in court.
2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the Government generally respected these rights in practice. Local law also protects citizens' right to petition the Government and the legislature.
The print media included eight Chinese-language dailies, four Portuguese-language dailies, and seven weeklies. There were three television networks. Macau Radio broadcast in both Portuguese and Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin). Hong Kong and international newspapers were freely available. The dominant newspapers were sympathetic to official Chinese positions in their editorial line. Critics charged that these papers did not give equal attention to liberal and pro-democracy voices. The reversion to PRC sovereignty has produced no overt or apparent restrictions of press freedom. Government officials asserted that the local press has grown more aggressive in its demands for accountability from public officials since the 1999 handover.
Article 23 of the Basic Law obliges the SAR to enact legislation that would forbid any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, and links of the foregoing nature that are harmful to national security with foreign political organizations. Human rights groups have voiced concern that when enacted these laws and other provisions passed to implement Article 23 may restrict fundamental rights and freedoms.
Particular concern has been raised regarding the Penal Code's lack of specific sentences for such crimes. A legal vacuum was created when a Portuguese law dealing with crimes against state security became null and void after the handover. In October the Government announced that it was working on draft legislation for the Article 23 antisubversion law that would undergo a period of public consultation and then be submitted to the Legislative Assembly in 2003. At year's end, that work was still ongoing.
There were no government-imposed limits on Internet access.
The Government did not restrict academic freedom.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. Under local law, individuals and groups intending to hold peaceful meetings or demonstrations in public places are required to notify the president of the relevant municipal council in writing at least 3 days but no more than 2 weeks in advance of the event. No prior authorization is necessary for the event to take place. Local law also provides criminal penalties for government officials who unlawfully impede or attempt to impede the right of assembly and for counter-demonstrators who interfere in meetings or demonstrations.
The law provides for freedom of association, and the Government generally respected this right in practice. The law neither provides for nor prohibits establishment of political parties. Under the Societies Ordinance, however, persons can establish "political organizations," of which a few existed, including the pro-democracy New Democratic Macau Society, headed by a legislator. Both civic associations and candidates' committees may present candidates in the elections by direct or indirect suffrage (see Section 3). Article 23 of the Basic Law obliges the Macau SAR to enact laws to prohibit foreign political organizations from establishing ties with domestic political organizations or bodies. The Government had not enacted any legislation to implement Article 23 (see Section 2.a.).
Falun Gong practitioners were allowed to continue their exercises and demonstrations in public parks. In recent years, police photographed practitioners. In the past, police occasionally took practitioners to the police station and made them wait a few hours while police checked their identification documents. Pro-democracy and Falun Gong activists living outside of the SAR stated that they were able to travel to the SAR without interference.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Basic Law provides for freedom of conscience and religious belief as well as freedom to preach and to conduct and participate in religious activities. The Freedom of Religion Ordinance provides for freedom of religion, privacy of religious belief, freedom of religious assembly, freedom to hold religious processions, and freedom of religious education. The SAR Government generally respected these rights in practice. There is no state religion.
The Religious Freedom Ordinance requires the registration of religious organizations. Registration is handled by the Identification Services Office. There have been no reports of discrimination in the registration process.
Practitioners of Falun Gong (a spiritual movement that does not consider itself a religion) have not applied for registration because a local lawyer advised them that their application for registration would not be approved since the Falun Gong was banned in mainland China in October 1999. However, the Identification Services Office has not issued any instructions regarding the Falun Gong, and senior SAR Government officials have reaffirmed that practitioners of Falun Gong may continue their legal activities without government interference. In recent years, police occasionally photographed practitioners and checked their identification documents (see Section 2.b.).
Religious bodies can apply to use electronic media to preach. The ordinance also stipulates that religious groups may maintain and develop relations with religious groups abroad.
Missionaries are free to conduct missionary activities and were active in the enclave. More than 30,000 children were enrolled in Catholic schools.
The Catholic Church recognizes the Pope as the head of the Church. In April the Holy See appointed a coadjutor Bishop for the Macau diocese. Editorials in the local Catholic newspaper noted this as an example of the Macau Government's independence and respect for religious freedom as provided for in the Basic Law.
For a more detailed discussion see the 2002 International Religious Freedom Report.
d. Freedom of Movement, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The law provides for these rights, and the Government generally respected them in practice. In 2001 a female Falun Gong practitioner from Hong Kong was barred from entering Macau despite statements by the Chief Executive that there was no political blacklist of persons from Hong Kong. In past years, the police admitted that they kept a list of unwelcome persons who have criminal records and persons whom they believe have criminal intentions. In December 2000, the Government detained and turned back prodemocracy activists and Falun Gong practitioners who tried to enter the SAR during the period observing the anniversary of the handover. A Security Bureau spokesman stated that they were not admitted because it was suspected that they intended to carry out unlawful demonstrations and that the law, which gives residents the right to assemble and demonstrate, does not give nonresidents that right (see Section 2.b.). Foreign Falun Gong and democracy activists have traveled to Macau at other times without incident.
The law provides for the granting of asylum and refugee status in accordance with the provisions of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government cooperated with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in assisting refugees before the handover. There were no refugee cases during the year. The law makes no provision for first asylum. There were no reports of refugees being forced to return to a country where they feared persecution.
During the year, 1,198 illegal migrants were returned to the mainland, of whom 120 were male and 1,078 female.
3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The ability of Macau citizens to change their government is restricted. The Government is led by a Chief Executive chosen by a 200-member Selection Committee, which is in turn chosen by a 100-member Preparatory Committee, composed of 60 Macau and 40 mainland representatives appointed by the NPC of the PRC. The 27-member Legislative Assembly elected in 2001 is composed of 10 members elected in direct elections; 10 indirectly elected by local community interests such as business, labor, professional, welfare, cultural, educational and sports associations; and seven appointed by the Chief Executive. Prior to the 2001 elections, the Legislative Assembly was composed of 8 members elected directly, 12 elected indirectly, and 7 that were appointed. Elections are held every 4 years, and the number of legislators is to increase gradually in subsequent elections. In 2005 the number of directly elected seats is to be increased to 12, with 10 elected indirectly and 7 appointed. After 2009 the rules on the Assembly's composition may be altered by a two-thirds majority of the total membership and with the approval of the Chief Executive, who has veto power. The Basic Law does not provide for universal suffrage or for direct election of either the legislature or the Chief Executive.
There are limits on the types of legislation that legislators may introduce. Article 75 of the Basic Law stipulates that legislators may not initiate legislation related to public expenditure, the SAR's political structure, or the operation of the Government. Bills relating to government policies must receive the written approval of the Chief Executive before they are submitted.
A 10-member Executive Council appointed by the Chief Executive consists of 2 legislators, 1 former legislator, 5 policy secretaries and 2 prominent businessmen. The Executive Council functions as an unofficial cabinet, approving all draft legislation before it is presented in the Legislative Assembly.
In January a bill approved by the Legislative Assembly in 2001 went into effect, transforming Macau's two provisional municipal councils into a new public body. Under the previous arrangement, a total of eight directly elected members sat on the two councils. The councils were responsible for culture, recreation and public sanitation functions. Under the new system, the councils have been merged into a single public body, called the Institute for Civic and Municipal Affairs, with all of its members appointed by the Chief Executive. The Basic Law states that "municipal organizations are not organs of political power."
Five of the 27 Legislative Assembly members (3 directly elected, 1 indirectly elected, 1 appointed), including the President of the Assembly, were women. Women held a number of senior positions throughout the Government.
4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Domestic human rights groups generally functioned without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights. Local human rights groups, such as the Macau Association for the Rights of Laborers, and the New Democratic Macau Association, continued to operate.
International human rights agreements that formerly were applicable to Macau were approved by the Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group and continued to apply to the SAR. In addition, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is subsumed in the Basic Law.
The Commission Against Corruption received 1,116 complaints against public officials in a variety of agencies during the year. By year's end, the Commission had opened 131 files, of which 115 were criminal cases and 16 were administrative grievances. The Commission transferred 24 cases to the Public Prosecutions Office. A monitoring body established to review complaints of maladministration or abuse by the Commission itself received no such complaints during the year.
5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Basic Law stipulates that residents shall be free from discrimination, irrespective of their nationality, descent, race, sex, language, political persuasion, ideological belief, educational level, economic status, or social condition. In addition, many local laws carry specific prohibitions against discrimination. For example, under the law that establishes the general framework for the educational system, access to education is stipulated for all residents regardless of race, religious belief, or political or ideological convictions.
The Government enforces criminal statutes prohibiting domestic violence and prosecutes violators. Police and court statistics do not distinguish between spousal abuse and other assault cases. If hospital treatment is required, a medical social worker counsels the victims of abuse and informs them about social welfare services. Until their complaints are resolved, victims of domestic violence may be provided public housing, but no facilities were reserved expressly for them.
Private and religious groups sponsored programs for victims of domestic violence. The Government supported and helped to fund these organizations and programs. The Bureau for Family Action was created by the Government as a subordinate body of the Department of Family and Community of the Social Welfare Institute. The Bureau helps women who have been victims of domestic violence, providing not only a safe place for them and their children but also advice regarding legal actions against the perpetrators. A special family counseling service performed an average of 150 family services per month, including receiving phone calls and conducting interviews. Two government-supported religious programs also offered rehabilitation programs for women who have been victims of violence. Through September, 19 cases of spousal abuse were reported to the Social Welfare Institute. Between January and July, the Office for Security Co-ordination received 143 reports of offenses against the physical integrity of female spouses. From January to September, the Government received two criminal complaints of statutory rape and one case of ill treatment. The law on rape covers spousal rape. During the year, their were 13 reported rapes.
Prostitution is legal, but procuring is not. Although there was no reliable data regarding the number of persons involved, trafficking in women was a problem (see Section 6.f.).
There is no law specifically addressing sexual harassment, although there is a law prohibiting harassment in general.
Women have become more active and visible in business. A Government survey indicated that, as of June, women comprised 47.1 percent of the labor force. Equal opportunity legislation that is applicable to all public and private organizations mandates that women receive equal pay for equal work, prohibits discrimination based on sex or physical ability, and establishes penalties for employers who violate these guidelines. However, there was wage discrimination in some sectors, notably construction. The equal opportunity legislation may be enforced by civil suits, but no cases alleging discrimination have been brought to court.
The Government is committed to protecting the rights and welfare of children; it does so by relying on the general framework of civil and political rights legislation to protect all citizens. For example, the Criminal Code provides for criminal punishment for sexual abuse of children and students, statutory rape, and procuring involving minors.
School attendance is compulsory for all children aged 5 to 15 years. Basic education was provided in government-run schools and subsidized private schools and covers the pre-primary year, primary education, and general secondary school education. The Education Department provided assistance to families of those children that could not pay school fees. The children of illegal immigrants were excluded from the educational system. The Government provided free medical care for all children. Child abuse and exploitation were not widespread problems. Through September 15 cases of child abuse were reported to the Social Welfare Institute. Between January and July, the Office for Security Coordination received 20 reports of child abuse. From January to September, four criminal complaints regarding sexual abuse of children were received.
Persons with Disabilities
The extent to which persons with physical disabilities experienced discrimination in employment, education, and provision of state services was not known fully. A 2001 census stated that there were 5,713 persons with disabilities in the SAR.
The Social Welfare Institute offered financial and rehabilitation assistance to persons with disabilities and helped to fund 5 residential facilities and 14 day centers providing services for the disabled. A few other special programs existed, aimed at helping persons with disabilities gain better access to employment, education, and public facilities. Nineteen nongovernmental entities providing services for persons with disabilities received regular assistance from the Social Welfare Institute and subsidies from other governmental departments. An average of 86 percent of the total income of these nongovernmental entities came from the Government. Four nongovernmental entities were totally funded by the Government, including one residential home and one day training center for mentally retarded persons, one residence for former psychiatric patients and one day center for disabled children. Twenty-two schools had programs for persons with disabilities, providing special education programs for 752 students.
In October a new law was enacted, mandating improved accessibility for persons with reduced mobility to public administration buildings, buildings open to the public, collective dwellings and pavements. The Government's Social Security fund may grant subsidies for the elimination of architectural barriers in order to facilitate access by persons with a physical or behavioral disability.
Although no specific laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of racial or ethnic background, the rights of ethnic minorities, particularly the Macanese (Eurasians who comprise roughly 2 percent of the population) were generally respected. Although Portuguese officials no longer dominated the civil service, the government bureaucracy and the legal system placed a premium on knowledge of the Portuguese language, which was spoken by less than 2 percent of the population. The Chinese language has official status and the use of Chinese in the civil service was growing.
6. Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Government neither impeded the formation of trade unions nor discriminated against union members. The Basic Law stipulates that international labor conventions that applied to Macau before the handover shall remain in force and are to be implemented through the laws of the SAR. Human rights groups have expressed concern that local law does not have explicit provisions against antiunion discrimination.
Unions tended to stress the importance of stability and minimum disruption of the work force. Nearly all of the private sector union members belonged to the pro-China Federation of Trade Unions. Many local observers have claimed that this organization was more interested in furthering the Chinese political agenda than in addressing trade union issues such as wages, benefits, and working conditions. Only a small number of unions – six private sector unions and two public sector unions – were independent. All classes of workers have the right to join a union.
Unions may freely form federations and affiliate with international bodies. During the year, the SAR had eight independent industrial (sector-wide) unions. Three of the nearly 20 civil service unions – representing Portuguese, Macanese, and Chinese employees – were affiliated with the major non-Communist Portuguese union confederation, the Macau Sempre (Roots in Macau).
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The Government did not impede or discourage collective bargaining, but there is no specific statutory protection for this right, since Portuguese laws that protected collective bargaining no longer apply. Wages were determined by market forces. Unions tended to resemble local traditional neighborhood associations, promoting social and cultural activities rather than issues relating to the workplace. Local customs normally favored employment without the benefit of written labor contracts, except in the case of migrant labor from China and the Philippines. Chinese unions traditionally have not attempted to engage in collective bargaining.
Labor leaders have complained that there is no effective protection in local law from retribution should they exercise their right to strike. The Government argued that striking employees are protected from retaliation by labor law provisions that require an employer to have "justified cause" to dismiss an employee, and the Government enforced these provisions in practice. Strikes, rallies and demonstrations are not permitted in the vicinity of the Chief Executive's office, Legislative Assembly and other key government buildings. Although there was at least one protest, there were no work stoppages or strikes during the year.
In August approximately 300 casino workers and their families protested against a new employment contract with their newly formed casino group employer. The employees feared that they would earn less under the new contracts, which required a reduction in tips but an increase in fixed salaries. The Government referred the dispute to the Labor and Employment Bureau for mediation, the results of which were pending at year's end.
Workers who believe that they have been dismissed unlawfully may bring a case to court or lodge a complaint with the Labor Department or the High Commissioner against Corruption and Administrative Illegality, who also functions as an ombudsman.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, and there were no reports that such practices occurred.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The law prohibits minors under the age of 16 from working, although minors between the ages of 14 and 16 may be authorized to work on an "exceptional basis." Proposed changes to the law currently under consideration by the Government will prohibit minors under the age of 18 from working, while minors between the ages of 16 and 18 may be authorized to work on an "exceptional basis." Some children reportedly worked in family-run businesses and on fishing vessels, usually during summer and winter vacations. Local laws do not establish specific regulations governing the number of hours these children can work, but International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions are applied. The Labor Department enforced the law through periodic and targeted inspections and violators were prosecuted. The incidence of child labor was very low. The Labor Department Inspectorate did not conduct inspections specifically aimed at enforcing child labor laws, but it issued summonses when such violations were discovered in the course of other workplace inspections. No instances of child labor were reported during the year.
In August Macau ratified ILO Convention 182 on Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Local labor laws establish the general principle of fair wages and mandate compliance with wage agreements, but there is no mandatory minimum wage. Average wages generally provided a decent standard of living for a worker and family. There were no publicly administered social security programs, but some large companies provided private welfare and security packages.
Labor legislation provides for a 48-hour workweek, an 8-hour workday, paid overtime, annual leave, and medical and maternity care. Although the law provides for a 24-hour rest period for every 7 days of work, worker representatives reported that workers frequently agreed to work overtime to compensate for low wages. The Department of Labor provided assistance and legal advice to workers on request.
The Department of Labor enforces occupational safety and health regulations, and failure to correct infractions can lead to prosecution. In 2001 the Labor Department inspectorate carried out 1694 inspections and uncovered 29 violations carrying fines worth a total of $20,814 (166,500 Patacas). There were four work-related death cases during the first half of the year and six cases in 2001. Although the law includes a requirement that employers provide a safe working environment, no explicit provisions protect employees' right to continued employment if they refuse to work under dangerous conditions.
Migrant workers, primarily from China, made up approximately 11 percent of the work force. These workers often worked for less than half of the wages paid to local residents performing the same job, lived in controlled dormitories, worked 10 to 12 hours per day, and owed large sums of money to a labor-importing company for the purchase of their jobs. The U.N. Human Rights Committee has noted the lack of protective measures for working conditions and the absence of social security programs for nonresident workers as problems. Labor interests claimed that the high percentage of foreign labor eroded the bargaining power of local residents to improve working conditions and increase wages.
Due to an economic downturn and high unemployment, the Government has reduced the amount of foreign labor to give job priority to local residents. In a 2001 incident, approximately 40 workers from mainland China were detained after a standoff with their employer over compensation and abrupt dismissal. Some of the workers were deported before a judicial decision could be made on their labor-related claims. In another case, after dozens of foreign workers suddenly were laid off by a garment manufacturer, they petitioned the Government over being paid a fraction of their wages. In response the Government's Labor and Employment Affairs Bureau took action to mediate the pay dispute. The Government claimed that, since the workers' contracts had expired, their removal was lawful. However, a Labor and Employment Affairs Bureau official stated to the press that the dismissal of the workers was "unreasonable" and that the workers' demands were fair. There were no such demonstrations during the year.
f. Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits trafficking in persons. However, the SAR was both a transit point and a destination for trafficking in illegal aliens. It was also a transit point, and in the past has been a destination, for trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution. During the year, the Government maintained that the current flow of women into the SAR for the purpose of prostitution was "a result of regional economic migration and not a corollary of trafficking in people."
Trafficking in persons is a crime established and punished under Article 7 of the Law on Organized Crime. The penalty for the crime of trafficking in persons is imprisonment for 2 to 8 years. This penalty is increased by one-third (within minimum and maximum limits) if the victim is under the age of 18 years. If the victim is under 14 years old, the penalty is imprisonment for 5 to 15 years. In cases in which a victim is raped by a trafficker, the two offenses are treated as different crimes.
In the past, there were credible reports that women from Vietnam were trafficked into Macau as mail-order brides, with the assistance of organizations purporting to be travel agencies, international labor organizations, or marriage mediating services. Women from Malaysia, who usually were ethnic Chinese, also reportedly have been trafficked into the SAR; law enforcement authorities in Malaysia believed that the women were trafficked by Chinese criminal syndicates. In some cases, trafficking victims from Malaysia were lured by promises of well-paying jobs and then were forced to work as prostitutes.
Prostitution is not a crime in the SAR, but living off the proceeds of prostitution is a crime. In January the police arrested a Taiwan-run gang that allegedly paid Russian prostitutes a small amount of money during the first 6 to 12 months of their employment contracts to force their continued employment.
There were no government assistance programs in place for victims of trafficking. There were no local NGOs specifically dealing with the problem of trafficking, but there were charitable organizations that provided assistance and shelter to women and children who were the victims of abuse.