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Resumption by China of the Exercise of Sovereignty over Macao

The origin of the Macao question. Macao has been Chinese territory since time immemorial. In 1535, some Portuguese traveled to Macao by sea, anchored at its harbor and stayed there to do business. In 1553, on the excuse of drying water damaged goods, they landed on the territory and started to settle down in Macao in 1557. After the Opium War in 1840, the Portuguese Government took advantage of the defeat of the Qing Government and invaded and occupied Taipa Island and Coloane Island to the south of Macao. In March and December 1887, Portugal forced the Qing Government to sign a Protocol of Lisbon between China and Portugal and Treaty of Peking Between China and Portugal on Friendship and Commerce successively. These treaties allowed Portugal to permanently stay in and administer Macao and the lands under Macao these lands, the same as it governed other places. Portugal had since occupied Macao and included it into its territory. In 1976, the Constitution of Portugal identified Macao as a special region under the jurisdiction of Portugal.

After the founding of the People's Republic, the Chinese Government has stated on many occasions that Macao has always been Chinese territory, that the Macao question is one left over from history and that China stands for its settlement through peaceful negotiations when conditions are ripe and for the maintenance of the status quo there pending its resolution.

The signing and implementation of the Joint Declaration between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of Portugal on the Question of Macao.

As early as in Feb. 1976 when China and Portugal established diplomatic ties between them, the two countries reached common understanding in principle, in which they reaffirmed that Macao was Chinese territory and should be returned to China, but the time and details about the return should be worked out by the two governments through talks in due time. President Antonio dos Santos Ramalho Eanes of the Republic of Portugal visited China in 1985, during which leaders of the two countries had friendly consultations with each other on how to settle the Macao question and agreed to conduct negotiation on this issue through the diplomatic channels.

On 30 June 1986, the talks between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of Portugal on the question of Macao started in Beijing and the Joint Declaration on the Question of Macao between the two governments was initialed in Beijing on 26 March 1987. The government delegations of the two countries held four rounds of talks on this issue in nine months and finally reached consensus on all the documents related to Macao. On 13 April 1987, Prime Ministers of the two governments formally signed the Joint Declaration of the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of Portugal on the Question of Macao in Beijing. On 15 Jan. 1988, representatives of the two countries exchanged instruments of ratification of the Joint Declaration in Beijing, on which date the Joint Declaration started to become effective and Macao entered a transitional period.

The Joint Declaration consists of the main text and two annexes. The main text has seven articles, which stipulate the following: The Macao area (including the Macao Peninsula, Taipa Island and Coloane Island) is Chinese territory and the Government of the People's Republic of China will resume the exercise of sovereignty over Macao with effect from 20 Dec. 1999. The People's Republic of China will establish a Macao Special Administrative Region of the PRC in accordance with the provisions of Article 31 of the Constitution upon resuming the exercise of sovereignty over Macao. The Macao Special Administrative Region will be directly under the authority of the Central people's Government of the PRC. It will be vested with executive, legislative and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, except in foreign and defense affairs which are the responsibilities of the Central People's Government. Both the Government and the legislature of the Macao Special Administrative Region will be composed of local inhabitants. The current social and economic systems in Macao will remain unchanged, so will the life-style. The laws currently in force in Macao will remain basically unchanged. Due regard will be given to the economic interests of Portugal and other countries in Macao. All these basic policies and principles would be provided for in the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China and will remain unchanged for 50 years.

Annex I Elaboration by the Government of the People's Republic of China of Its Basic Policies Regarding Macao spells out the basic policies that the Joint Declaration has mentioned. Annex II Arrangements for the Transitional Period provides for the establishment of a Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group and a Sino-Portuguese Land Group and for continued friendly cooperation between the two sides during the transitional period between the date of the entry into force of the Joint Declaration and 19 December 1999 so as to create appropriate conditions for the transfer of government of Macao.

While signing the Joint Declaration, the Chinese and Portuguese sides also exchanged a memorandum of understanding between them, in which they expressed their respective positions on the citizenship of the inhabitants in Macao.

The Joint Declaration is a very important historical document. It gives full expression to such principles as "one country, two systems", "Macao people administering Macao"and a high degree of autonomy. It has laid a sound legal foundation for the smooth resumption of the exercise of sovereignty by China over Macao and for the continued stability and development in Macao.

According to the Joint Declaration, a Sino-Portuguese Joint Liaison Group will be set up when this Joint Declaration enters into force. The Joint Liaison Group shall be an organ for liaison, consultation and exchange of information between the two Governments. It shall not interfere in the administration of Macao, now shall it have any supervisory role over that administration. It shall perform the following functions: to conduct consultations on the implementation of the Joint Declaration and its Annexes; to exchange information and conduct consultations on matters relating to the transfer of government of Macao in 1999; to conduct consultations on actions to be taken by the two Governments to enable the Macao Special Administrative Region to maintain and develop external economic, cultural and other relations; and to exchange information and conduct consultations on other subjects as may be agreed by the two sides. Matters on which there is disagreement in the Joint Liaison Group shall be referred to the two Governments for solution through consultations. The Joint Liaison Group has altogether held 37 plenary meetings and many experts meetings to discuss matters related to a smooth transition and transfer of government in Macao. All these meetings have contributed to a successful settlement of the three big problems that Macao faced during its transitional period (namely, localization of public servants and localization of laws as well as the official status of the Chinese language) and many other problems such as Macao's accession to or its continued membership in international organizations concerned, the application of the relevant international conventions to Macao and inheritance of assets and archives of Macao. As a result, they have contributed to the smooth transition and transfer of government in Macao. The Joint Liaison Group concluded its mission on 1 Jan. 2000.

The drafting of the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. In September 1988, the Drafting Committee for the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region was set up under the National People' s Congress, which was responsible for the drafting of the Basic Law. The Committee was composed of 48 members with Mr. Ji Pengfei as its Chairman. On 31 March 1993, the Eighth National People's Congress adopted the draft Basic Law at its first session. The Basic Law is composed of the Preamble, General Principles, Relationship between the Central Authorities and the Macao Special Administrative Region, Fundamental Rights and Duties of Residents, Political Structure, Economy, Cultural and Social Affairs, External Affairs, Interpretation and Amendment of the Basic Law, Supplementary Provisions and three Annexes. China's basic policies toward Macao are thus specified in the form of a law. It gives full expression to the principles of "one country, two systems", "Macao people administering Macao" and a high degree of autonomy. It is thus a constitutional law for the Macao Special Administrative Region. It serves as a legal foundation for the Macao SAR to formulate all the necessary laws and policies.

The formation of the Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region. In May 1998, the Preparatory Committee of the Macao Special Administrative Region of the National People's Congress was established with Mr. Qian Qichen as its Chairman. On 10 April 1999, the Selection Committee for the First Government of the Macao SAR came into being. On 15 May, the Selection Committee elected Mr. Admund Ho Haw Wah as a candidate for the first Chief Executive at its third meeting. On 24 May, the State Council officially appointed Mr. Ho Chief Executive. On 11 August, the State Council appointed 7 principal officials of the first Government of the Macao SAR and Procurator-General at the recommendation of Mr. Ho. The Chief Executive, principal officials and Procurator-General assumed office on 20 Dec. 1999.

The return of Macao to China. At the mid-night of 19 Dec. 1999, a grand and solemn hand-over ceremony between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of Portugal was held at the Pavilion of Gardens of Macao Cultural Center. The Chinese Government Delegation headed by President Jiang Zemin, General Secretary of the CPC and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, the Portuguese Government Delegation headed by President Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio, and 2500 people from more than 50 countries and 20 international organizations attended this ceremony. President Jiang Zemin delivered a very important speech to mark the occasion. He said that the Chinese Government successfully solved the Hong Kong and Macao questions in accordance with the great concept of "one country, two systems"initiated by Deng Xiaoping. This event marked a major progress in the great cause of the Chinese people to accomplish the complete national reunification. The implementation of the policy of "one country, two systems"in Hong Kong and Macao has played and will continue to play an important demonstration role for the settlement of the Taiwan question. The Chinese Government and people have the confidence and capabilities to settle the Taiwan question and achieve a complete reunification at an early date. After the return of Macao to China, China will unswervingly implement the policies of "one country, two systems", "Macao people administering Macao" and a high degree of autonomy. The Macao Special Administrative Region will be vested with the executive, legislative and independent judicial power according to law, including final adjudication. The inhabitants in Macao, irrespective of their color and religious beliefs, are all masters of this land. Their rights and freedoms are guaranteed by law and they are all equal. On the small hours of the 20 Dec. the Government of the Macao Special Administrative Region was sworn in.

The smooth return of Macao to China has opened a new page in the annals of Macao.
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