HONG KONG, CHINA — Macau’s new national security law took effect on Tuesday, imposing wider restrictions on political opposition and civil society in the Chinese city.
The gambling hub has a separate legal system from the Chinese mainland, largely based on Portuguese law, and national security legislation was first enacted in 2009.
Macau’s government said the amendments were designed to catch up with similar legislation in China and Hong Kong, with an emphasis on stepping up the prevention of foreign interference.
The casino hub’s original national security law laid out seven major crimes, including treason, secession, subversion, theft of state secrets and foreign collusion, with punishments of up to 25 years in jail.
The amendments expand the offence of secession to cover non-violent acts, while subversion is stretched to punish opposition to any central government department and China’s ruling ideology.
Restrictions on “foreign political organisations or groups” have been widened to cover those operating outside Macau including non-political groups.
Macau police also now have extraterritorial jurisdiction to pursue suspects outside the city.
National security suspects can be subject to communications surveillance and restricted from leaving Macau for up to five days upon court orders.
Critics say the broadening of the offences along with the new surveillance and detention powers could further curtail liberties and rights, which were already subject to stringent controls.
Former Macau legislator Au Kam-san, a veteran democracy activist, said the expansive amendments could allow space for arbitrary law enforcement.
“The law enacted in 2009… might have left the authorities feeling that they got a useless tool as they never made any security prosecution,” Au told AFP.
“The more flexibility given to law enforcement is obviously damaging to human rights and press freedom.”
The amendments were passed this month by Macau’s rubber-stamp legislature with unanimous support.
They are separate from the national security clause added to the city’s gambling law last year that tightened control over the lucrative industry. That clause gave Macau’s leader grounds to revoke land concessions from casinos.