Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2000 - Macau

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 26 February 2001
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2000 - Macau , 26 February 2001, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
Comments This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with sections 116(d) and 502(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended, and section 504 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by February 25 "a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act." We have also included reports on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and that thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.
DisclaimerThis 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, 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 economy and way of life are to remain unchanged for the first 50 years under PRC sovereignty. The Government is headed by a Chief Executive, chosen by a 200-member Selection Committee, which was chosen by the Preparatory Committee (60 Macau and 40 mainland representatives appointed by the NPC). Voters elect only 8 of the 23 legislators in direct elections in geographical constituencies. Of the remainder, eight are elected by interest groups in functional constituencies, and seven are appointed by the Chief Executive. There are limits on the types of private member bills that may be tabled. After the handover, most of the laws in force continued to apply. The judiciary is independent.

The police force is under civilian control. After peaking in 1999, serious organized crime-related violence appears to have been curbed, and police report a marked reduction in violent crime. A People's Liberation Army (PLA) garrison of 800 soldiers stationed in Macau under the Garrison Law (Macau SAR) plays no role in internal security.

The market-based economy is fueled by textile and garment exports, along with tourism and gambling. However, a depressed real estate market, weak consumer demand, and high unemployment have limited economic growth in recent years, a trend that continued during the year. Despite the economic downturn, most citizens still enjoy a high standard of living. Per capita gross domestic product is approximately $15,000 (Macau Patacas 118,000).

The Government generally respects the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. Such problems include the limited ability of citizens to change their government; limits on the legislature's ability to initiate legislation; occasional instances of police abuse; inadequate provision for the disabled; a lack of legal protection for strikes and collective bargaining rights; and trafficking in women.


1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings.

There was one death in custody during the year, as a result of inmates fighting. The assailant was tried and convicted. Of the seven prisoners who died in custody in 1999, investigations showed no official misconduct in five of the deaths; at year's end, investigations continued into the other two deaths (see Section 1.c.).

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such abuses, and the authorities generally respect these provisions in practice. During the year there were 11 instances involving 15 police officers in which police brutality was alleged. In one case, one officer was suspended for 75 days; three cases (involving four policemen) were dropped for lack of evidence; and six cases (involving nine policemen) remain under investigation. The Procurator's Office (the prosecutor's office, independent of both the police and the Justice Department) is investigating allegations that a police officer beat a 14-year-old boy distributing leaflets on the 1989 Tienanmen Massacre in the period prior to the anniversary of the handover (see Section 2.a.). The Procurator also is investigating allegations that a police officer or an immigration officer beat an Australian Falun Gong practitioner during the anniversary period (see Section 2.b.).

Scuffles erupted in May and several protesters and police were injured, none seriously, when 1,500 unemployed workers tried to deliver a petition to the Chief Executive protesting the importation of foreign labor.

Prison conditions meet minimum international standards, but in recent years the prison population has doubled to 700, one-third of them mainlanders. Facilities and personnel have failed to keep pace. In March the Secretary for Security announced plans to hold talks with mainland authorities on a prisoner transfer agreement, but no agreement has been reached. During the year, one inmate died in custody as the result of a fight with another inmate, who was subsequently convicted of murder. In 1999 seven prisoners died in custody, one as the result of illness, one as the result of suicide, and three as the result of injuries received during fights with other inmates. The two other deaths remain under investigation.

The Government permits prison visits by human rights monitors.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, and exile, and the authorities respect 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 is 3 months.

In August the Legislative Assembly unanimously passed a Commission against Corruption Act, which increased the investigative powers of Macau's independent graft-fighting organization. The act also provided for the establishment of a monitoring body, appointed by the Chief Executive, to review public complaints against the Commission.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is independent and has power of final adjudication over all cases in the SAR. According to the Basic Law, the courts may rule on matters 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 Chinese National People's Congress. 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 of the NPC must consult its 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 (of the 100 lawyers in private practice, approximately 5 can read and write Chinese) and magistrates may hamper development of the legal system. However, the authorities have instituted a rigorous postgraduate training program for magistrates who received legal training outside of the SAR. The judiciary is relatively inexperienced (the first law school opened in the early 1990's), and the lack of locally trained lawyers is a serious impediment to preservation of an independent judiciary and the overall development of the legal system.

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. Of the 23 judges, 4 are Portuguese.

The structure of the judiciary was stipulated in a December 1999 law. 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 vigorously enforces this right. Trials are open to the public. The Criminal Procedure Code provides for the accused person's right to be present during proceedings and to choose an attorney or request that one be provided at government expense. A 1997 law on combating organized crime provides that "certain procedural acts may be held without publicity" and that witness statements read in court are admissible as evidence. There are also additional restrictions on the granting of bail and suspended sentences in organized crime cases.

The judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process, although the average waiting period between the filing of a civil case and its scheduled hearing is 12 months. Laws issued between 1976 and 1991 have been translated into Chinese. Since 1991 all legislation has been issued simultaneously in Chinese and Portuguese.

The Chief Procurator enjoys substantial autonomy from both the executive and the judiciary. The Basic Law stipulates that his functions must be carried out without any interference.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

Laws provide for the inviolability of the home and of communications, the right of ownership of private property and enterprises, and the freedom to marry and raise a family, and the Government respects these rights in practice.

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 respects these rights in practice. Local law also protects citizens' right to petition the government and the legislature. However, in a December speech given in the SAR, Chinese President Jiang Zemin warned residents of Macau not use their freedoms to oppose the State, and admonished the press to remember its social responsibilities.

The Procurator's Office is investigating allegations that a police officer beat a 14-year-old boy distributing leaflets on the 1989 Tienanmen Massacre in the period before the celebration of the anniversary of the handover (see Section 1.c.)

The print media include eight Chinese-language dailies, two Portuguese-language dailies, and seven weeklies. There are three television networks. Macau Radio broadcasts in both Portuguese and Chinese (Cantonese and Standard Chinese). Hong Kong and international newspapers are freely available. In October the Government initiated a 2-year plan to subsidize local print media to enable them to compete better with the increased availability of Hong Kong newspapers. The dominant newspapers have a pro-China orientation. Critics charge that they do not give equal attention to liberal and prodemocracy voices. The reversion to Chinese administration has not, so far, affected press freedom. Government officials claim that the local press has grown more aggressive about demanding accountability from public officials since the handover.

According to Falun Gong practitioners, the group's materials, available for sale in two local stores before Falun Gong was banned on the mainland in October 1999, were removed from the shelves by store management. However, so far as is known, the Government has taken no action to limit their availability (see Section 2.c.).

Article 23 of the Basic Law obliges the SAR to enact laws that "forbid any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets." Human rights groups are concerned that these and other provisions of Article 23 may restrict fundamental rights and freedoms. They are particularly concerned because the Penal Code adopted in 1995 does not specify sentences for such crimes, and a legal vacuum was created when an earlier Portuguese law dealing with crimes against state security became null and void after the handover. The process of developing this legislation continues with no indication of when such laws may be enacted.

There are no government-imposed limits on Internet access.

The Government respects academic freedom.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government generally respects 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; however, no prior authorization is necessary for the event to take place. Local law also provides criminal penalties for authorities who unlawfully impede or attempt to impede the right of assembly and for counterdemonstrators who interfere in meetings or demonstrations. Local Falun Gong supporters are allowed to exercise and demonstrate without interference.

In March two political activists staged a brief demonstration, which concluded peacefully outside of the PLA garrison, to protest statements by the Central People's Government before the Taiwan elections. Scuffles erupted in May and several protesters and police were injured, none seriously, when 1,500 unemployed workers tried to deliver a petition to the Chief Executive protesting the importation of foreign labor. In December during celebration of the anniversary of the handover, the Government allowed local Falun Gong practitioners to demonstrate in a park about a mile from the official ceremonies. However, the authorities detained and turned back prodemocracy activists and Falun Gong practitioners who tried to enter the SAR during the anniversary period. As in the past, the authorities have observed that the law gives residents the right to assemble and demonstrate, but not nonresident foreigners (see Section 2.d.). A police or immigration officer beat one Australian Falun Gong practitioner. The Procurator General is investigating (see Section 1.c.). Prodemocracy and Falun Gong activists say that they have traveled to Macau without interference at other times.

Article 23 of the Basic Law obliges the SAR to enact laws that prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the SAR.

The law provides for freedom of association, and the Government respects this right in practice. There is no law prohibiting political parties, but there are no genuine political parties. Both civic associations and candidates' committees may present candidates in the elections by direct or indirect suffrage (see Section 3). However, Article 23 of the Basic Law obliges the Macau SAR to enact laws that "prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies of the region from establishing ties with domestic political organizations or bodies." One international human rights nongovernmental organization expressed concern that 1997 legislation on combating organized crime could be used to curb freedom of association. However, that has not occurred.

c. Freedom of Religion

The 1998 Freedom of Religion Ordinance provides for freedom of religion, and the Government respects this right in practice. The ordinance, which remained in effect after the handover, also provides for privacy of religious belief, freedom of religious assembly, freedom to hold religious processions, and freedom of religious education. The Basic Law also provides for religious freedom.

The Religious Freedom Ordinance requires the registration of religious organizations. This 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. Falun Gong practitioners continue to perform their exercises in parks. However, in December authorities detained and turned back foreign Falun Gong practitioners who tried to enter the SAR during the period observing the anniversary of the handover (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 and provides for freedom of religious education.

Missionaries are free to conduct missionary activities and are active in the enclave. More than 30,000 children are enrolled in Catholic schools, and a large number of influential non-Christians have had Christian educations.

According to Falun Gong practitioners, the group's materials, available for sale in two Macau stores before Falun Gong was banned on the mainland in October 1999, were removed from the shelves by store management. However, the Government has taken no action to limit their availability (see Section 2.a.).

d. Freedom of Movement, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The law provides for these rights, and the Government respects them in practice. In January immigration authorities refused to allow a Hong Kong human rights activist to enter Macau for "security reasons." However, senior Macau government and police officials quickly apologized for the "error." In December the authorities 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 said that they were not admitted because it was suspected that they intended to carry out unlawful demonstrations, and that the law gives residents the right to assemble and demonstrate, but it does not give nonresidents that right (see Section 2.b.). Falun Gong and democracy activists have traveled to Macau at other times without incident.

The law includes provisions for handling refugees and asylees in accordance with the provisions of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. There were no reports of refugees being forced to return to a country where they feared persecution. The law makes no provision for first asylum.

The Government has assisted in the resettlement of Vietnamese who fled their country by boat. Only seven Vietnamese refugees remain in the SAR. No Vietnamese refugees were repatriated in 1997 or 1998, the last period for which statistics were available. Macau returns an average of 444 illegal Chinese migrants to China each month.

3. Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens have a limited ability to change their government. The 23-member Legislative Assembly is composed of 8 members elected in direct elections; 8 indirectly elected by local community interests; and 7 appointed by the Chief Executive. However, 14 of the 16 elected members who came to office before the handover elected to remain until their terms expired in 2001. Elections are held every 4 years. The number of legislators is to increase gradually in subsequent elections. In 2001 10 legislators are to be directly elected, 10 elected indirectly, and 7 appointed by the Chief Executive. In 2005 the number of directly elected seats is to be increased to 12 (with 10 indirectly elected and 7 appointed). After 2009 the rules on the Assembly's composition may be altered by a two-thirds majority of the total membership, with the approval of the Chief Executive. 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 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 (currently filled by five legislators and five policy secretaries) functions as an unofficial cabinet, approving all draft legislation before it is tabled in the Legislative Assembly. Local government representatives elected by direct, universal, secret ballot have responsibility for public sanitation and cultural activities.

Although women traditionally have played a minor role in local political life and are still underrepresented, they hold a number of senior positions throughout the Government. Three of the 23 Legislative Assembly members (1 directly elected, 1 indirectly elected, and 1 appointed), including the President of the Assembly, are women.

4. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Human rights groups operate without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights.

International human rights agreements that were formerly applicable to Macau were approved by the Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group and continue to apply to the SAR. In addition the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is subsumed in the Basic Law.

5. Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Basic Law stipulates that residents shall be free from discrimination, irrespective of their nationality, descent, race, sex, language, religion, political persuasion or 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.


Violence against women is not common. For cases that are reported, the authorities enforce criminal statutes prohibiting domestic violence and prosecute violators. However, 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 victim and informs her about social welfare services. Until their complaints are resolved, battered women may be provided public housing, but no facilities are reserved expressly for them. Two civic organizations that receive government funding provide rehabilitation services for women who are the victims of violence. At year's end, one rape case was before the courts, three cases were with the Procuratorate awaiting trial, and two cases are under investigation. The law on rape covers spousal rape. Prostitution is legal, but procuring is not. There is no law specifically addressing sexual harassment, although there is a law prohibiting harassment.

Trafficking in women is a problem (see Section 6.f.).

Women are becoming more active and visible in business. The Government estimates that women account for 43 percent of the work force. Equal opportunity legislation enacted in 1995, 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 is wage discrimination in some sectors, notably construction. The equal opportunity legislation is to 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; however, it has not promulgated any statutes specifically to protect the rights of children, instead 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 not compulsory; however, the vast majority of residents' minor children attend school. Basic education is provided in government-run schools and subsidized private schools, and covers the preprimary year, primary education, and general secondary school education. The Education Department provides assistance to families of those children who cannot pay school fees. The children of illegal immigrants are excluded from the educational system (see Section 6.d.).

Child abuse and exploitation are not widespread problems. In the first 9 months of 1998, the most recent period for which statistics are available, only two cases of child abuse were reported. In 1999 two nonresidents were arrested and deported for exploiting children (family members) for the purpose of begging.

People With Disabilities

In 1997 the U.N. Human Rights Committee recommended that Macau do more to ensure the economic and social rights of the disabled, and that year, the authorities formed a working group to define the fundamental rights of the disabled and to determine the role of social service organizations in assisting them. The Social Welfare Institute offers financial and rehabilitation assistance to the disabled and is helping to fund an employment center. A few other special programs exist, aimed at helping the physically and mentally disabled gain better access to employment, education, and public facilities. Laws do not mandate building access for the disabled. More than two-thirds of the funding for services for the disabled comes from government subsidies. The Government almost totally subsidizes 5 group homes, 16 rehabilitation centers, and 8 other charitable institutions serving the disabled. Nine schools have programs for the disabled, providing special education programs for approximately 359 students. The extent to which physically disabled persons experience discrimination in employment, education, and provision of state services is not known fully. A government study published in October 1999 estimated that there were 4,354 persons with physical and/or mental disabilities in the SAR. The same study noted that "the belief still persists among the Chinese community that having a handicapped child is a form of punishment for past deeds, and this leads families to hide the handicapped child from society."

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

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 9 percent of the population of 430,000) are respected. Although Portuguese officials no longer dominate the civil service, the governmental and legal systems place a premium on knowledge of the Portuguese language, which is spoken by less than 4 percent of the population. The Chinese language received official status in 1993, and the use of Chinese in the civil service is growing.

6. Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Government neither impedes the formation of trade unions nor discriminates against union members. The Basic Law stipulates that international labor conventions that applied to Macau shall remain in force and shall be implemented through the laws of the SAR. However, human rights groups are concerned that local law does not have explicit provisions against antiunion discrimination.

People's Republic of China interests heavily influence local trade union activities, including the selection of union leadership. Unions tend to stress the importance of stability and minimum disruption of the work force. Nearly all of the private sector union members belong to a pro-China labor confederation. Many local observers claim that this organization is more interested in furthering the Chinese political agenda than in addressing trade union issues such as wages, benefits, and working conditions. A few private sector unions and two of the four public sector unions are outside Chinese control.

Labor leaders complain that there is no effective protection in local law from retribution should they exercise their right to strike. The Government argues that provisions in the labor law that require an employer to have "justified cause" to dismiss an employee protect striking employees from retaliation. There were no work stoppages or strikes during the year.

Unions may freely form federations and affiliate with international bodies. During the year, at least two independent industrial (sector-wide) union were registered. Three civil service unions – representing Portuguese, Macanese, and Chinese employees – are affiliated with the major non-Communist Portuguese union confederation.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Unions tend to resemble local traditional neighborhood associations, promoting social and cultural activities rather than issues relating to the workplace. Moreover, local customs normally favor 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. The Government does 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, and wages are determined by market forces.

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

Forced and bonded labor by both residents and nonresidents is prohibited by law, and there were no reports of such practices; however, there were cases of trafficking in women (see Section 6.f.). Children are covered under laws prohibiting forced or bonded labor, although they are not specified in the legislation.

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 can be authorized to work on an "exceptional basis." Some children reportedly work 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 conventions are applied. The Labor Department enforces the law through periodic and targeted inspections and violators are prosecuted. The incidence of child labor is very low and has declined radically since effective enforcement began in 1985. The Labor Department Inspectorate does not conduct inspections specifically aimed at enforcing child labor laws but issues summonses when such violations are discovered in the course of other workplace inspections. No instances of child labor were reported during the year. Forced and bonded labor is prohibited by law; although child labor is not specified in the law, it is covered by the law's provisions, and there were no reports of its use (see Section 6.c.).

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 provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. In the absence of any statutory minimum wage or publicly administered social security programs, some large companies provide 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 report that workers frequently agree to work overtime to compensate for low wages. The Department of Labor provides assistance and legal advice to workers on request, but government enforcement of labor laws is lax.

Migrant workers, primarily from China, make up approximately 16 percent of the work force. These workers often work for less than half the wages paid to a local resident performing the same job, live in controlled dormitories, work 10 to 12 hours a day, and owe large sums of money to the labor-importing company for the purchase of their jobs. In 1997 the U.N. Human Rights Committee noted the lack of protective measures for working conditions and the absence of social security programs for nonresident workers as matters of concern. Labor interests claim that the high percentage of imported labor erodes the bargaining power of local residents to improve working conditions and increase wages. Citizen workers demonstrated against the importation of foreign laborers several times during the year.

The Department of Labor enforces occupational safety and health regulations. Failure to correct infractions can lead to prosecution. In 1999 the Labor Department Inspectorate carried out 424 inspections and uncovered 16 violations carrying fines worth a total of $2,100 (MP16,500). There were two work-related death cases in 1999. 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.

f. Trafficking in Persons

Specific legislation prohibits trafficking in persons; however, trafficking in women for the purpose of forced prostitution continues to be a problem, although it is difficult to quantify. In 1999 2 Vietnamese women were prosecuted in Vietnam for trafficking 15 Vietnamese women to Macau for the purpose of prostitution. There have been credible reports that women from Vietnam are 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 are usually ethnic Chinese, also reportedly have been trafficked into Macau; law enforcement authorities in Malaysia believe that the women are trafficked by Chinese criminal syndicates. In some cases, trafficking victims from Malaysia are lured by promises of well-paying jobs and then are forced to work as prostitutes. In 1999 the Korean press reported that a Korean man was arrested on charges of forcing 40 Korean women, recruited as waitresses, into prostitution in Macau. There have been no reported cases of trafficking of female residents of Macau to other countries or jurisdiction (see Sections 5 and 6.c.).

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