Li Peng, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), presented the letters of appointment to nine members of the newly established Committee for the Basic Law of the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR) in Beijing on December 20 at the 13th Session of the Ninth NPC Standing Committee.
The committee, a working group under the NPC Standing Committee, is expected to study and make suggestions to advise Chinese lawmakers on the interpretation and revision of the Basic Law, the MSAR legislative powers and the validity of national laws in the MSAR. It began its work on the morning of December 20 when the MSAR Basic Law took effect.
Half of the 10-member panel are Chinese citizens from among the permanent residents of Macao who have no right to residence in any foreign country. They were jointly nominated by MSAR Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah, Legislative Coumcil President Susana Chou and Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal Sam Hou Fai.
Chen Ziying, a member of the panel, is expected to receive a letter of appointment later when he comes back from Macao.
Also at the session, a draft decision adding two more national laws to Annex III of the MSAR Basic Law won the full support of 139 attendants. The laws concern exclusive economic zones, the continental shelf and the Macao Garrison.
The MSAR Basic Law stipulates that national laws, except those listed in Annex III, will not be enforced in Macao.
The legislators also approved a list of names for an election board which will select Macao deputies to the NPC.
Commission office opens. The Commission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the MSAR opened hours after the Chinese flag was raised in the garden of the newly built commission building at 8 am on December 20.
Commissioner Yuan Tao said, "The opening of the commission is an important symbol of China's resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Macao."
The commission represents the Foreign Ministry in matters related to the Central Government. It is the institution that deals with the Macao government. It is also the agency that handles applications from foreign countries and international organizations that would like to establish consulates or representative offices in Macao.
Under the MSAR Basic Law, the regional government has the authority to handle some of its external affairs.
HK, the model for Macao. Hong Kong's successful experience as a special administrative region could be a model for Macao to emulate, said Tung Chee Hwa, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), on December 16.
The "one country, two systems" concept has been well integrated into all aspects of life since China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, Tung said.
Macao's return and the success of the HKSAR "will certainly help China reunite in the future," he said.
"China's resumption of sovereignty over Macao is the pride of the nation and it is a very precious opportunity to witness another celebration of historical significance," he said.
He urged Macao to further develop economic ties with Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, and pledged to expand cooperation with Macao.
Tung attended the handover ceremony of Macao on December 20 as a member of the Central Government delegation.
Macao, a supporter of China's WTO entry. China has an edge with the World Trade Organization (WTO) no matter when it joins the international trade group. That is because China's newest special administrative region, Macao, is already a member of the WTO, said An Min, Assistant Minister of the Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation.
Macao has advantages in market entry, anti-dumping policies, telecommunications, financial and insurance services. And China's entry into the WTO will mean more business opportunities for Macao and Hong Kong, he said.
He emphasized that the mainland's economic activities will adhere to international rules and practices once China joins the WTO.
Trade statistics show that at the end of October, 6,384 projects with direct investment from Macao have been established on the mainland.
Macao needs digital economy. Extensive application of digital technology is the key to revitalizing Macao's economy and brightening its economic prospects, economists said at a recent seminar in Macao.
They maintained that Macao has various advantages in developing an economy with an extensive application of a digital technology: cultural diversity, openness to the rest of the world, free trade policies, free flow of capital and an advantageous geographic location. They said all this combines to make Macao a bridge between China's hinterland and the outside world. Macao's comfortable living environment is attractive to potential employees.
In addition, Macao has the necessary infrastructure for technology and knowledge, they said.
Macao's economy is heavily dependent on tourism and gambling, export-oriented processing, real estate and finance. Its growth has slowed down since the early 1990s due to the Asian financial crisis and international economic problems.
Conference stresses science. China must keep pace with modern scientific developments, which can spur the revital-ization of the nation, Vice-Premier Li Lanqing said on December 15 at the closing ceremony of a two-day national conference.
The conference to promote the public's understanding of science was an important spearhead in the fight against superstitious activities, including the Falun Gong cult, and pseudosciences, he said.
"There must be better dissemination of science-related information to the public so that the people will have a better understanding of science," he said.
He encouraged scientists to target rural areas for scientific education. Those areas are backward and the people there are prone to superstition because of their inadequate education.
"Dissemination of science in rural areas can be combined with plans for helping farmers become more prosperous and for improving agricultural production."
President Jiang Zemin said in a letter to the conference that central government officials should take the initiative in learning science so that they can be more adept at handling economic and scientific projects.
Taiwan investment protected. Rules for implementing the Law on Protecting Investment of Taiwan Compatriots (issued in March 1994) is a major step toward encouraging Taiwan business people to invest in the mainland, said Shi Guangsheng, Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, in Beijing on December 15.
Despite Taiwan authorities' obstruction of economic exchanges and cooperation across the Taiwan Straits, the rules will have a positive impact by encouraging Taiwan business people to invest, he said.
Taiwan is the mainland's fifth largest trading partner. Cross-Straits trade volume had reached US$155.6 billion by the end of October. Taiwan firms had invested in approximately 43,000 mainland projects that had a total contractual value of US$43.58 billion.
Chen Yunlin, Director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said the investment law demonstrates the mainland's determination in protecting the interests of Taiwan business people.
Trade unions should protect workers. Trade unions should step up efforts to protect the rights and interests of workers all over China and let them know how to protect themselves legally, said Vice-President Hu Jintao on December 16.
Meanwhile, trade unions need to make joint efforts with the Party and Government to severely punish violations of workers' rights, said Hu at a meeting of the executive committee of the 13th National Congress of Trade Unions.
Today the rights of workers in many enterprises are not respected: some employees do not receive their wages on time; and some are not allowed to express their opinions about company business
"Trade unions must check to see whether enterprises are looking out for the interests of workers, including their rights to compensation and decisionmaking."
He asked trade unions to help laid-off workers improve their living conditions and have a happy Spring Festival, the most significant traditional festival in China which falls on February 5 next year.
He also called on workers across the country to use their wisdom and initiative to advance the reform and development of State-owned enterprises.
New reserves to be established. China plans to establish 224 new nature reserves in the next five years to protect wild animals and plants, according to Wang Zhibao with the State Forestry Administration.
The program will begin next year. And the first wave is targeted for west China, which has a wide variety of wild fauna and flora in its fragile environment.
Wang was confident that a network of nature reserves will be in operation by the end of 2005. Approximately 70 percent will be under the direct control of the forestry administration.
China now has 1,118 nature reserves, including 136 at State level. They cover a total of 86.41 million hectares which is nearly 9 percent of the nation's total.
ICBC opens a branch in Europe. China's largest commercial bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), opened its Luxembourg branch on December 16.
This is the seventh of ICBC's overseas operational institutions, said Jiang Jianqing, Vice-President of ICBC, at the inauguration ceremony in Luxembourg.
The branch will target the unified market of EU and develop investment banking business and off-shore banking services besides the traditional commercial banking business. It will also arrange project financing, issue euro bonds and help Chinese enterprises to be listed in Luxembourg, Jiang said.
The major customers will be Chinese individuals and institutions living or operating in Luxembourg.
(Beijing Review No. 52 December 27, 1999)