China, Portugal Plan Talks on Macao’s Future
China and Portugal announced today that they will start talks in Peking on June 30 aimed at ending more than four centuries of Portuguese rule over the tiny gambling mecca of Macao.
Peking’s negotiating team will be led by Vice Foreign Minister Zhou Nan, while Portuguese Ambassador to China Ruy Barbosa Medina will represent Lisbon.
Zhou also headed the Chinese side in lengthy negotiations with Britain two years ago on the future of Hong Kong, which will revert to communist rule in 1997.
Portugal has governed the six-square-mile territory of Macao since 1557, making it the oldest Western settlement in Asia.
The sleepy enclave across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong is known for its gambling casinos and dog and horse racing tracks, which contribute about one-third of the territory’s annual revenues. It has a population of about 400,000 people, 98% of them Chinese.
Peking has declared its intention to follow the same “one-country, two-systems” formula used in the 1984 Sino-British agreement on Hong Kong. Under that accord, hammered out during two years of tortuous negotiations, Hong Kong will retain its basic freedoms and capitalist life style for 50 years after reverting to communist rule in 1997.
Peking-based diplomats, noting that Lisbon has been trying to give Macao back to China since 1974, said the Sino-Portuguese talks should proceed quickly and much more smoothly than the Hong Kong negotiations.