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Macau, also spelled Macao, is one of the two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the other being Hong Kong.
Macau lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong Kong to the east, bordered by Guangdong province to the north and facing the South China Sea to the east and south. The territory's economy is heavily dependent on gambling and tourism, but also includes manufacturing.
A former Portuguese colony, Macau was administered by Portugal from the mid-16th century until 1999, when it was the last remaining European colony in China.
Portuguese traders first settled in Macau in the 1550s. In 1557, Macau was rented to Portugal by the Chinese empire as a trading port. The Portuguese administered the city under Chinese authority and sovereignty until 1887, when Macau became a colony of the Portugal.
Sovereignty over Macau was transferred back to China on 20 December 1999. The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law of Macau stipulate that Macau operate with a high degree of autonomy until at least 2049, fifty years after the transfer.
Under the policy of "one country, two systems", the PRC's Central People's Government is responsible for the territory's defense and foreign affairs, while Macau maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, and immigration policy. Macau participates in many international organizations and events that do not require members to possess national sovereignty.
According to The World Factbook, Macau has the second highest life expectancy in the world. In addition, Macau is one of the very few regions in Asia with a "very high Human Development Index", ranking 23rd or 24th in the world in 2007 (with Japan being the highest in Asia; the other Asian countries/regions within the "very high HDI" category are Taiwan, Hong Kong, Brunei, Qatar, Singapore, Israel and South Korea).
The Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, Macau's constitution promulgated by China's National People's Congress in 1993, specify that Macau's social and economic system, lifestyle, rights, and freedoms are to remain unchanged for at least 50 years after the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1999. Under the principle of "one country, two systems", Macau enjoys a high degree of autonomy in all areas except in defence and foreign affairs. Macau officials, rather than PRC officials, run Macau through the exercise of separate executive, legislative, and judicial powers, as well as the right to final adjudication. Macau maintains its own separate currency, customs territory, immigration and border controls, and police force.
The government in Macau is headed by the chief executive, who is appointed by the central government upon the recommendation of an election committee, whose three hundred members are nominated by corporate and community bodies. The recommendation is made by an election within the committee. The chief executive's cabinet is made up of five policy secretaries and is advised by the Executive Council that has between seven and eleven members. Edmund Ho Hau Wah, a community leader and former banker, was the first chief executive of the Macau SAR, replacing General Vasco Rocha Vieira at midnight on 20 December 1999. Fernando Chui Sai On is the current Chief Executive. The chief executive and the cabinet have their offices in the Macau Government Headquarters, located in the former area of the St. Lawrence Parish.
The legislative organ of the territory is the Legislative Assembly, a 29-member body comprising 12 directly elected members, ten indirectly elected members representing functional constituencies and seven members appointed by the chief executive. Any permanent residents at or over 18 years of age are eligible to vote in direct elections. Indirect election is limited to organizations registered as "corporate voters" and a 300-member election committee drawn from broad regional groupings, municipal organizations, and central government bodies.
The original framework of the legal system, based largely on Portuguese law or Portuguese civil law system, was preserved after 1999. The territory has its own independent judicial system with a high court. Judges are selected by a committee and appointed by the chief executive. Foreign judges may serve on the courts.
Macau has a three-tier court system: the Court of the First Instance, the Court of the Second Instance and the Court of Final Appeal. In February 2009, the Legislative Assembly passed a security bill based on the withdrawn security legislation previously introduced in Hong Kong. Democracy advocates feared that the bill's excessively broad scope could lead to abuses, a concern which has been heightened after a number of prominent supporters of democracy in Hong Kong were denied entry into Macau in the run-up to the bill's passage.
Under Portuguese rule, Macau often served as an expeditionary base to Japan and other regions of East Asia from the 16th century onwards, while maintaining a strong garrison mainly to repel Dutch and mainland Chinese attacks. However since the allied British settled Hong Kong, the need for a strong military presence in Macau dimmed and it became very limited and ceased in 1974. In 1999, upon handover to the PRC, a substantial garrison of the People's Liberation Army was established in the city itself, with a large portion of the forces stationed in neighbouring Zhuhai as well.
For more general information about Macau, click here
Acknowledgement: This page sourced and adapted from: Wikipedia
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