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New Left Review 50, March-April 2008

The transformation of the former Portuguese enclave of Macau into East Asia’s gambling capital by an alliance of local elites and Las Vegas entrepreneurs, under the approving gaze of Beijing. A frenzy of construction, rising inequalities and rampant corruption as outcomes of a neon-lit decolonization.



On the sweltering afternoon of May Day, 2007, a rare mass protest of construction workers, local civil servants and others took place in the streets of Macau. [*] This is a revised version of an article originally published as ‘Macau’s Neo-colonialism’ in the Taiwanese journal Si-xiang [Reflexion], 7, November 2007. I am very grateful to Chien Yung-xiang for his help with various aspects of this essay. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets with banners bearing a range of slogans—against corruption, for housing rights and better livelihoods, against the influx of illegal labour—and chanting calls for the resignation of Macau’s chief executive, Edmund Ho Hau-Wah. The march was organized by a coalition of six small labour unions but was joined along the way by many sympathetic bystanders. At the junction of Avenida do Coronel Mesquita and Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro, in the heart of the old Portuguese colonial city, an altercation with the police over the protest’s route turned into a series of scuffles, and one citizen was seriously wounded as a policeman fired five gunshots. [1] The next day, the pro-Beijing Macau Daily sought to downplay the police violence, instead condemning the rally for ‘disrupting Macau’s economy, social order and image’. Business and cultural organizations also berated the protesters for seeking to ‘create turbulence’, and to ‘divide government and people’.

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Shih-Diing Liu, ‘Casino Colony’, NLR 50: £3

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