Portugal will return Macao to China in 1999 under an agreement reached today to end more than 400 years of Portuguese rule over the tiny enclave on the South China coast.
Macao, known for its gambling casinos and European-style architecture, is Portugal's last overseas possession.
The settlement of 450,000 people will revert to Chinese sovereignty on Dec. 20, 1999, Portugal's ambassador to China, Octavio Valerio, told reporters.
Macao was the last Western colony in China to have its future resolved. In 1984, Britain agreed to return Hong Kong to China in 1997 when the British lease on the colony runs out.
The Lisbon government had hoped to keep Macao until 2007, the 450th anniversary of Portuguese rule, but Beijing said at the end of last year that it wanted the territory returned before the year 2000.
Macao comprises a peninsula and two islets with an area of six square miles on the Canton River delta.
4 Million Tourists a Year
Macao's casinos attract more than 4 million tourists a year and account for 25% of the settlement's tax revenue. The Chinese have said they will not close the casinos even though gambling is illegal in China.
The agreement was reached at the end of the fourth round of talks between China and Portugal on Macao.
A joint declaration will be initialed in Beijing on Thursday by Rui Medina, head of the Portuguese delegation to the talks, and Vice Foreign Minister Zhou Nan, head of the Chinese delegation, a communique said. The Portuguese Embassy said a formal signing ceremony is expected to be held in Beijing in April, with Portuguese President Mario Soares attending, but no exact date has been set.
It was believed that the agreement will be similar to that signed between China and Britain on the return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule. China said Hong Kong, 40 miles from Macao, could keep its capitalist system for 50 years after the Chinese takeover.