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2011 Human Rights Reports: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau) - Macau


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
May 24, 2012

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARYShare    

Macau is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and enjoys a high degree of autonomy, except in defense and foreign affairs, under the SAR’s constitution (the Basic Law). Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on, who took office in December 2009, headed the government after being elected in July 2009 by a 300-member commission. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.

Three prominent human rights abuses reported during the year included limits on citizens’ ability to change their government, concerns over press freedom, and concerns over workers’ rights.

Although trafficking in persons remained a problem, there was a lack of prosecutors to pursue trafficking cases. Moreover, national security legislation, passed in 2009 in accordance with Article 23 of the Basic Law, remained a source of concern, but by year’s end no cases had been brought under the law.

The government took steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses. There was no impunity for government officials.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:Share    

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

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 practices, and the government generally respected these rights.

During the year there was one case of death in police custody. The police indicated the individual had committed suicide, and at year’s end the procuratorate was investigating the case. In the first half of the year, there were four cases of police mistreatment, all involving off-duty officers. At year’s end the procuratorate was investigating the cases. During the first half of the year, the Commission Against Corruption received two complaints of police mistreatment, but both cases were deferred due to insufficient information.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions generally met international standards, and the government permitted monitoring visits by independent human rights observers. According to the government, no independent human rights observers requested or made any visit to the SAR’s only jail, the Macau Prison. Judges and prosecutors visited the Macau Prison once a month and the Youth Correctional Institution (for offenders between the ages of 12 and 16) once every three months.

The SAR has a maximum prison capacity of 1,341 persons, and the occupancy rate was approximately 70 percent during the year. The age of criminal responsibility is 16. The total prison population for persons of this age and above for the first half of the year was 943. Of the total number of inmates, there were 801 male prisoners and 142 female prisoners. Offenders between the ages of 12 and 16 were subject to an “education regime,” which could include incarceration depending on the offense. During the first half of the year, 44 minors were detained in the Youth Correctional Institution.

The SAR reported that prisoners had access to potable water. In addition ombudsmen are able to serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees. The government took steps to improve recordkeeping and the use of alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders.

Prisoners and detainees had reasonable access to visitors and were permitted religious observance. The law allows prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and request investigations, and judges and prosecutors made monthly visits to prisons to hear prisoner complaints.

Macau Prison was designed to hold 1,297 inmates; with the addition of 101 new prisoners during the year, the government recognized that the facility was reaching its capacity and expanded the female section with a further 100 beds, in addition to constructing a new prison.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Public Security Police (general law enforcement) and Judiciary Police (criminal investigations), and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish official abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment While in Detention

Persons were apprehended openly with warrants based on sufficient evidence and issued by a duly authorized official. Detainees were allowed access to a lawyer of their choice or, if indigent, to one provided by the government. Detainees were allowed prompt access to family members. Police must present persons in custody to an examining judge within 48 hours of detention. The 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. According to the government, defendants should be tried within the “shortest period of time.” The prosecutorate’s inquiry stage must end within six months for detained defendants and within eight months for cases with no detained defendants; the pretrial inquiry stage must be concluded within two months whenever there are detained defendants, or four months if there are no detained defendants. The criminal procedure code mandates that pretrial detention is limited to between six months to three years, depending on the charges and progress of the judicial system. Judges often refused bail in cases where sentences could exceed three years.

Law enforcement received two complaints for alleged offenses committed by police officers against persons in custody in the first half of the year. Disciplinary proceedings were instituted for the officers in both cases with one case closed and one pending criminal proceedings. There was one complaint in the first half of the year of assault by a police officer against a person in custody.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence in practice. The courts may rule on matters that are the responsibility of the PRC government or concern the relationship between the central authorities and the SAR. Before making their final judgment, which is not subject to appeal, the courts must seek an interpretation of the relevant provisions from the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee. 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.”

Trial Procedures

The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases and a right to appeal. Trials are public and are by jury except when the court ex oficio or upon request rules otherwise, to “safeguard the dignity of persons, public morality, or to ensure the normal functioning of the court.” Defendants have the right to be present at their trials, confront witnesses, and consult with an attorney in a timely manner. Public attorneys are provided for those who are financially incapable of engaging lawyers or paying expenses of proceedings. Defendants also have the right to appeal. The law extends these rights to all residents.

The judiciary provides citizens with a fair and efficient judicial process; however, due to an overloaded court system, a period of up to a year often passed between filing a civil case and its scheduled hearing.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

There is an independent and impartial judiciary for civil matters, and citizens have access to a court to bring lawsuits seeking damages for, or cessation of, a human rights violation.

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

The law prohibits such actions, and the government generally respected these prohibitions in practice. The Office for Personal Data Protection acknowledged a continual increase in complaints and inquiries on data protection.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:Share    

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Status of Freedom of Speech and Press

The law provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice.

The Law on Safeguarding National Security (Article 23 of the Basic Law), which entered into force in March 2009, criminalizes both committing and “acts in preparation” to commit treason, secession, subversion of the PRC government, and theft of state secrets. The crimes of treason, secession, and subversion specify the use of violence, and the government stated that the law would not infringe on peaceful political activism or media freedom.

Freedom of Press: The independent media were active and expressed a wide range of views, and international media operated freely. Major newspapers were heavily subsidized by the government and tended to closely follow the PRC government’s policy on sensitive political issues, such as Taiwan; however, they generally reported freely on the SAR government, including reports critical of the government.

Violence and Harassment: Some journalists who wrote about issues disparaging of the government complained about undue disciplinary actions such as temporary suspensions, delayed promotions, and editors assigning them to cover less important stories. In June one news editor received several threatening letters warning him not to publicize concerns over the government-owned broadcaster’s in-house management and leadership issues.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Activists raised concerns over some media self-censorship particularly due to the fact that news outlets and journalists worried some critical coverage might limit government funding.

Internet Freedom

There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or credible reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail.

The Strike against Computer Crime Law criminalizes a range of cybercrimes and empowers the police, with a court warrant, to order Internet service providers to save and then provide a range of data. Some legislators expressed concern that the law grants police the authority to take these actions without a court order under some circumstances.

The media reported that several Web sites, among them Facebook, YouTube, and Skype, which are blocked on the PRC Mainland, were blocked on government-provided free WiFi service. The government denied any intention to restrict access, stating that the main problem was available bandwidth and pointing out that the mobile version of Facebook was available. Twitter, which is banned on the Mainland, was available.

Academic Freedom and Cultural Events

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of Assembly

The law provides for freedom of assembly, and the government generally respected this right in practice. The law requires prior notification, but not approval, of demonstrations. In cases in which authorities tried to restrict access to public venues for demonstrations or other public events, the courts generally ruled on the side of the applicants. Police may redirect march routes, and organizers had the right to challenge such decisions in court.

On May 1, approximately 2,300 workers demonstrated without major incident, although police stopped one reporter from taking photos. Law enforcement claimed this was to help the journalist from being hit by a moving van. A court found the allegations of the journalist to be unsubstantiated due to lack of evidence. Activists claimed the protests were calm during the year because the government had given out cash payments to participants of the controversial May 2010 march.

Freedom of Association

The Basic Law and the civil code provide for freedom of association. No authorization is required to form an association, and the only restriction is that the organization not promote violence, crime, or disruption of public order. During the first half of the year, the Identification Bureau registered 383 new associations, but it did not issue “proof of adoptable name of association” in 33 cases because intended group names were the same or similar to registered organizations.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/j/drl/irf/rpt.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The law provides for freedom of movement within the SAR, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. Persons denied entry into the SAR have the right to contact their consulate or other representative of their country, receive assistance with language interpretation, and consult a lawyer. The Immigration Department cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

The Internal Security Law grants police the authority to prevent entry and deport nonresidents who are regarded under the law as unwelcome, deemed to constitute a threat to internal security and stability, or are suspected of transnational crimes. Legislators and activists alleged that police used this law to prevent Hong Kong democracy and rights activists from entering the SAR, including when the purpose of travel was merely tourism or personal business. Police declined to discuss the circumstances of individual cases.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation’s annual survey of violations of trade union rights, the government denies entry into Macau of labor leaders or democratic activists from Hong Kong. Macau continued to ban Hong Kong Legislative Council member Lee Cheuk-yan, a prominent labor leader, from entering the SAR. The government claimed the commander of the Public Security Police “based on the public interest…may refuse entry of any nonresident whose status is found to be inappropriate.”

Protection of Refugees

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees. In practice the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Persons granted status enjoyed the same rights as other SAR residents, while persons with pending applications were eligible to receive government support, including basic needs such as housing, medical care, and education for children.

According to the government, during the year there were four pending cases for refugee status, but their determination could take several years to process. One Afghan asylum seeker was in his ninth year waiting. Paul Pun Chi, secretary general of the Caritas social welfare organization, said the process was “long and drawn out” and the procedures and isolation pushed applicants into a “hopeless situation.”

In December the Court of Second Instance overturned Chief Executive Chui’s June 2010 decision to uphold a Macau Refugee Commission ruling denying refugee status to the family of a Kurdish human rights activist from Syria. The court’s unanimous verdict also harshly criticized the Macau Refugees Commission for claiming there was no evidence of Syrian discrimination directed at Kurds and for ignoring a UNHCR report that sided with the asylum seekers.

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

The law limits citizens’ ability to change their government. Only a small fraction of citizens play a role in the selection of the Chief Executive (CE), who is chosen by a 300-member Election Committee consisting of 254 members elected from four broad societal sectors (which have a limited franchise) and 46 members chosen from among the SAR’s legislators and representatives to the NPC and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: Despite calls for an increase in the number of directly elected Legislative Assembly seats, the government quickly dispelled an October news report that it was considering plans to expand the number in 2013. Of the 29 seats in the Legislative Assembly, only 12 are directly elected. The last election, held in 2009, was generally free and fair.

There are limits on the types of bills that legislators may introduce. The law stipulates that legislators may not initiate legislation related to public expenditure, the SAR’s political structure, or the operation of the government. Proposed legislation related to government policies must receive the CE’s written approval before it is submitted. The legislature also has no power of confirmation over executive or judicial appointments.

A 10-member Executive Council functions as an unofficial cabinet, approving draft legislation before it is presented in the Legislative Assembly. The Basic Law stipulates that the CE appoint members of the SAR Executive Council from among the principal officials of the executive authorities, members of the legislature, and public figures.

Political Parties: The SAR has no laws on political parties; politically active groups therefore registered as societies or companies. These groups were active in promoting their political agendas, and those critical of the government did not face restrictions. Such groups participated in protests over government policies or proposed legislation without restriction.

Participation of Women and Minorities: There were four women in the 29-member Legislative Assembly. Women also held a number of senior positions throughout the government, including the Secretary for Justice and Administration, the second-highest official in the SAR government. Fifteen of the SAR’s 46 judges were women. Women made up more than 41 percent of the senior-level executive, 48 percent of the judiciary, and almost all of the senior legislative staff (i.e., not including legislators). There were two members of ethnic minorities in the Legislative Assembly. One Executive Council member was from an ethnic minority, as was the police commissioner general.

Section 4. Official Corruption and Government TransparencyShare    

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and there were few reported instances of officials engaging in corruption.

The Commission against Corruption (CAC) investigated the public and private sectors and had the power to arrest and detain suspects. The Ombudsman Bureau within the CAC reviewed complaints of maladministration or abuse by the CAC. There was also an independent committee outside the CAC, the Monitoring Committee on Discipline of CAC Personnel, which accepted and reviewed complaints about CAC personnel.

By law the CE, his cabinet, judges, members of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council, and executive agency directors are required to disclose their financial interests upon appointment, promotion, and retirement, and at five-year intervals while in the same position.

The law does not provide for public access to government information. However, the executive branch published online, in both Portuguese and Chinese, extensive information on laws, regulations, ordinances, government policies and procedures, and biographies of government officials. The government also issued a daily press release on topics of public concern. The information provided by the legislature was less extensive.

Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human RightsShare    

A number of domestic and international groups monitoring human rights generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials often were cooperative and responsive to their views.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in PersonsShare    

The law stipulates that residents shall be free from discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status, and many laws carry specific prohibitions against discrimination; the government effectively enforced the law.

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government effectively enforced the law. In the first half of the year, there were nine complaints of rape lodged with the police. The police and courts acted promptly on rape cases, arresting four individuals accused of rape.

Although there is not a specific law on domestic violence, laws that criminalize the relevant behaviors, including “ill-treatment of minors or spouses,” were used by the government effectively to prosecute domestic violence. However, various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and government officials considered domestic violence against women to be a growing problem. Domestic violence falls under several crimes in the criminal code, including the crime of mistreatment of minors, persons with incapacity, or spouses. These crimes are punishable with imprisonment ranging from one to five years. If mistreatment leads to serious physical injuries or death of the victim, the penalties may be increased to imprisonment of two to eight years for cases resulting in physical injuries and five to 15 years for cases resulting in death. During the first half of the year, 197 complaints of crimes related to domestic violence were reported to the police. Of the 197 cases, 121 involved spousal abuse. In February the Women’s General Association of Macau released a survey noting that 80 percent of the women in its shelter had suffered physical, psychological, or sexual abuse. The Legislative Assembly began debate in September on a government-drafted antidomestic violence bill setting tough penalties for abusers and creating a victim protection scheme.

The government made referrals for victims to receive medical treatment, and medical social workers counseled victims and informed them of social welfare services. During the first half of the year, the Social Welfare Bureau (SWB) handled 36 domestic violence cases involving 44 victims. The government funded NGOs to provide victim support services, including housing, until their complaints were resolved. The government also supported two 24-hour hotlines, one for counseling and the other for reporting domestic violence cases.

NGOs and religious groups sponsored programs for victims of domestic violence, and the government supported and helped fund these organizations and programs. The Bureau for Family Action, a government organization subordinate to the Department of Family and Community of the Social Welfare Institute, helped female victims of domestic violence by providing a safe place for them and their children and advice regarding legal actions against perpetrators. A range of counseling services was available to persons who requested them at social centers. Two government-supported religious programs also offered rehabilitation programs for female victims of violence.

Sexual Harassment: There is no law specifically addressing sexual harassment, unless it involves the use of a position of authority to coerce the performance of physical acts. Harassment in general is prohibited under laws governing equal opportunity, employment and labor rights, and labor relations. Between January and June, one complaint of gender discrimination was filed with the Labor Affairs Bureau (LAB) but was later withdrawn.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and have the information and means to do so free from discrimination or coercion. Access to contraception, prenatal care, and skilled attendance at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available. Women and men were given equal access to diagnostic services and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Discrimination: Equal opportunity legislation mandates that women receive equal pay for equal work; however, observers estimated that there was a significant difference in salary between men and women, particularly in unskilled jobs. The law allows for civil suits, but few women took cases to the LAB or other entities. Discrimination in hiring practices based on gender or physical ability is prohibited by law, and penalties exist for employers who violate these guidelines. No complaints of discrimination were lodged with the police, LAB, or CAC.

Children

The government protected the rights and welfare of children through the general framework of civil and political rights legislation that protects all citizens. The law defines abuse, neglect, violence, and maltreatment of children as criminal offenses. In the first half of the year, three physical abuse cases were reported to the police, and the SWB received nine cases of child abuse, which involved nine children. The Health Bureau handled four child abuse cases. The SWB arranged residential placements and other support services for these abused children.

Birth Registration: In accordance with the Basic Law, children of Chinese national residents of Macau born in or outside the SAR and children born to non-Chinese national permanent residents inside the SAR are regarded as permanent residents. There is no differentiation between these categories in terms of access to registration of birth.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law specifically provides for criminal punishment for sexual abuse of children and students, statutory rape, and procurement involving minors. The criminal code sets 14 as the age of sexual consent and 16 as the age for participation in the legal sex trade. Child pornography is prohibited by law. During the first half of the year, there were two complaints of sexual abuse of children and five complaints of sexual acts with minors lodged with the police. Law enforcement arrested one individual in the case of the sexual abuse of children and three individuals for sexual acts with minors.

International Child Abductions: The SAR is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s report on compliance at http://travel.state.gov/abduction/resources/congressreport/congressreport_4308.html as well as country-specific information at http://travel.state.gov/abduction/country/country_3781.html.

Anti-Semitism

The Jewish population was extremely small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip.

Persons with Disabilities

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services, and the government generally enforced these provisions in practice. The law mandates access to buildings, information, and communications for persons with disabilities. The government enforced the law effectively. The Social Welfare Institute is primarily responsible for coordinating and funding public assistance programs to persons with disabilities. There is a governmental commission to rehabilitate persons with disabilities, with part of the commission’s scope of work addressing employment.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Although the government made efforts to address the complaints of individuals of Portuguese descent and the Macanese minority, members of these two groups continued to claim they were not treated equally by the Chinese majority. While they participated in political and cultural circles, some activists claimed businesses refused to hire employees who are not ethnically Chinese.

Societal Abuses, Discrimination, and Acts of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

There are no laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity and no prohibition against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender persons forming organizations or associations. There were no reports of violence against persons based on their sexual orientation.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS and limits the number of required disclosures of an individual’s HIV status. Employees outside medical fields are not required to declare their status to employers. There were anecdotal reports that persons whose status became known, as well as organizations supporting them, faced some forms of discrimination. There were no reported incidents of violence against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Section 7. Worker RightsShare    

a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The law, including Article 27 of the Basic Law, provides for the right of workers to form and join unions or “labor associations” of their choice without previous authorization or excessive requirements. However, to register as an official union, the government requires the organization to provide all of its members’ names and personal information. There is no law specifically defining the status and function of labor unions, nor are employers compelled to negotiate with them. While there are no legal restrictions preventing companies from refusing to hire union workers, union membership is not a legitimate basis for dismissal under the Law on Labor Relations.

Workers in certain professions, such as the security forces, are forbidden to form unions, take part in protests, or strike. Such groups had organizations that provided welfare and other services to members and that could speak to the government on behalf of their members. Migrant workers do not have the right to recourse for unlawful dismissal, and neither migrant workers nor public servants have the right to bargain collectively.

Under Article 27 of the Basic Law, workers have the right to strike, but there is no specific protection in the law from retribution if workers exercised this right. The government argued that striking employees are protected from retaliation by labor law provisions, which require an employer to have justified cause to dismiss an employee.

The law provides that agreements concluded between employers and workers shall be valid, but there is no specific statutory protection that provides for the right to collective bargaining. Independent lawmakers continued to push for the government to introduce a trade union and collective bargaining law.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions.

Workers who believed they were dismissed unlawfully may bring a case to court or lodge a complaint with the Labor Department or the Office of the High Commissioner against Corruption and Administrative Illegality, which also functions as ombudsman.

There were no reports that the government failed to enforce strike provisions during the year. Although strikes, rallies, and demonstrations were not permitted in the vicinity of the CE’s office, the Legislative Assembly, and other key government buildings, in practice some protests occurred near government headquarters.

Some union leaders complained that while laws may exist that protect worker rights, the government did not respond to official complaints (for which the LAB charges the unions a fee to process) on working conditions or abuse, nor did the government punish employers that withheld pay when employees made such complaints. To register as an official union, the government requires the organization to provide all of its members’ names and personal information. Union leaders also claimed that the government maintained a “blacklist” of labor “agitators.”

In October several lawmakers urged the government to protect nonresident workers’ rights, claiming it was difficult to punish employers due to problems in the law. According to one legislator, the LAB had received a total of 135 court rulings regarding illegal work involving 258 illegal workers. A total of 114 employers were convicted, but 89 of these had their jail sentence suspended. The LAB claimed it had hired and was training 43 new labor inspectors to deal with these issues.

During the year the Union for Democracy Development Macau expressed concern that the law contains no explicit provisions that bar discrimination against unions. The United Free Union of Gaming and Construction Workers of Macau complained of police monitoring of its activities.

Even without formal collective bargaining rights, companies often negotiated with unions, although the government regularly acted as an intermediary. Pro-PRC unions traditionally have not attempted to engage in collective bargaining. Migrant workers do not have the right to bargain collectively.

b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and there were no reports that such practices occurred.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at http://www.state.gov/j/tip.

c. Prohibition of Child Labor 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 worked in family-operated or small businesses. Local laws do not establish specific regulations governing the number of hours these children can work, but International Labor Organization conventions were applied. Additionally, the law governing the number of working hours (eight hours a day, 40 hours a week) was equally applicable to adults and minors, but minors cannot work overtime hours. Minors are forbidden from certain types of work, including but not limited to domestic work, any employment between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., and at places where admission of minors is forbidden. The Labor Department enforced the law through periodic and targeted inspections, and violators were prosecuted.

d. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Local labor laws establish the general principle of fair wages and mandate compliance with wage agreements. There is no mandatory minimum wage, except for government-outsourced security guards and cleaners and foreign domestic workers. The law also sets maximum hours, rest days, statutory holidays, and premium pay rules. Article 70 of the 2008 Labor Relations Law allows employers to dismiss staff “without just cause” provided that economic compensation, indexed to the employee’s length of service, is paid.

In October Secretary for Economy and Finance Francis Tam announced that the government had submitted a request to the Central Government to allow maids from Mainland China to work in Macau, with the possibility of establishing a minimum wage for this group. Tam explained the minimum wage for this group might be higher than the $320 minimum monthly salary for foreign domestic workers, who were mainly from the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Local customs normally favored employment without the benefit of written labor contracts, except in the case of migrant workers, who were issued short-term contracts. Labor groups reported that employers increasingly used temporary contracts to circumvent obligations to pay for workers’ benefits, such as pensions, sick leave, and paid holidays. The short-term nature of the contracts also made it easier to dismiss workers by means of nonrenewal.

Labor legislation provides for a 48-hour workweek (many businesses operated on a 40-hour workweek), an eight-hour workday, paid overtime, annual leave, and medical and maternity care. Although the law provides for a 24-hour rest period each week, workers frequently agreed to work overtime to compensate for low wages. The Labor Department provided assistance and legal advice to workers upon request.

The Labor Department enforced occupational safety and health regulations, and failure to correct infractions could lead to prosecution. Although the law includes a requirement that employers provide a safe working environment, no explicit provisions protect employees’ right to continued employment if they refused to work under dangerous conditions.

According to the government’s Human Resources Office, there were approximately 90,000 imported workers at the end of September, mostly from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. These workers, commonly engaged in the restaurant and hotel industry but also serving as foreign domestic workers, gaming and entertainment employees, and engaged in the construction and retail sectors, often complained of discrimination in the workplace. The Macau Lawyers Association claimed these foreign workers often faced unequal pay in comparison with their Macau counterparts. In October a group of 90 foreign workers won a court battle against their former employer for nonpayment of overtime and holiday bonus as well as the elimination of food and other bonuses.

Nonresident worker associations and the International Labor Organization expressed concern about the Law on the Employment of Nonresident Workers, which requires foreign workers who left their jobs for any cause not held to be just to depart the SAR for six months. Labor officials stated that the law, meant to deter “job hopping” by migrant workers, would be implemented only if the worker could not demonstrate just cause for wishing to terminate the contract himself (such as abuse, nonpayment of wages, and contract violation) or if the employer dismissed the worker after three days’ unauthorized absence (in accordance with the labor law). However, the lack of coordination between the LAB, which handled complaints, and the Immigration Department, which granted or withdrew permission for migrant workers to remain in the SAR, meant that workers filing complaints could be dismissed from their positions, lose their immigration status, and be forced to depart prior to the resolution of their complaints. While the government noted that workers under such circumstances could apply for special extensions to remain, a senior SAR labor official was quoted in the media as stating that dissatisfied workers “can always go back to their homeland to find another job.”





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