China’s top envoy in Macau will start advising the local government on “national security” matters, state media reported Friday, the latest move by Beijing to increase control over the gambling enclave.
State-run Xinhua news agency said Liaison Office chief Fu Ziying would be in charge of “supervising, guiding, coordinating, and supporting Macau in safeguarding national security.”
Three national security technical advisers would also be appointed from within the Liaison Office, it added.
Like neighbouring Hong Kong, Macau is a “semi-autonomous” part of China that is allowed to largely run its own affairs.
Beijing used a sweeping new national security law to crack down on dissent in Hong Kong after huge and often violent democracy protests two years ago.
The Liaison Office there has since taken a greater direct role in governance and China’s mainland security apparatus now operates openly in Hong Kong.
Macau, which has had its own national security law since 2009, has not seen similar unrest but Beijing is taking few chances and has ramped up oversight of the former Portuguese colony.
Police in the territory banned a small vigil marking the anniversary of China’s deadly 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown earlier this year, saying the event would “incite subversion”.
It was the first confirmation from authorities that marking Tiananmen’s anniversary is now treated as subversive as it is on the mainland and was a further blow to the city’s limited political freedoms.
Authorities later disqualified 21 candidates most of them from the city’s tiny pro-democracy camp from standing for legislative elections on national security grounds.
They were accused of disloyalty to China after they commemorated the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and honoured rights activist and Beijing critic Liu Xiaobo.
The appointment of a senior Chinese official to oversee national security also comes as authorities ramp up scrutiny of Macau’s casino sector, the mainstay of its economy.
In September, officials announced plans to put government representatives on licensed operators’ boards to oversee their dealings, as well as to criminalise underground banking in the industry, a move that caused a plunge in casino operator share prices.
Last week Alvin Chau, head of the city’s largest junket operator, was detained for running illegal betting activities, a prosecution that has further rattled the gaming industry.