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article imageXi warns Hong Kong and Macau in 'one China' message

By Aaron Tam (AFP)     Dec 20, 2014 in World

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Hong Kong and Macau on Saturday to remember they are part of "one China", as pro-democracy campaigners in both semi-autonomous territories call for free leadership elections.

Dozens of protesters marched through Macau's historic centre Saturday afternoon as Xi wrapped up his two-day visit, just days after police cleared the last remaining protest sites in neighbouring Hong Kong.

Residents of all ages walked in the middle of the road through the historic district shouting: "We want universal suffrage" through megaphones, some wrapped in banners and others with slogans painted across their faces.

"I am uncertain about Macau's future, so we have to come out to make noise for ourselves," said Mark Pang, a 15-year-old high school student who held up an open yellow umbrella -- the symbol of the Hong Kong democracy movement.

Xi warned both territories on Saturday against a "misguided approach".

"We must both adhere to the 'one China' principle and respect the difference of the two systems," Xi said at the inauguration of Macau's chief executive Fernando Chui, who was selected for a second term by a pro-Beijing committee in August.

"At no time should we focus only on one side to the neglect of the other. This is the only way leading to sound and steady progress. Otherwise a misguided approach from the beginning, just like putting one's left foot into the right shoe, would lead us to nowhere," Xi said.

Macau gaming
Macau gaming

Security has been tight during the trip with reporters on the airport tarmac waiting for Xi's arrival Friday not allowed to hold umbrellas and handed raincoats instead.

A small group of protesters attempted to walk to where Xi was staying while holding yellow umbrellas. Police stopped them, saying the area was "restricted".

There were also reports that some visitors and reporters from Hong Kong were denied entry after being told their names were on a blacklist.

- 'Escalate actions' -

Both Macau and Hong Kong enjoy freedoms unseen on the mainland -- but their leaders are selected by a loyalist committee.

Protesters holding yellow umbrellas are stopped by police after trying to gain access to the area wh...
Protesters holding yellow umbrellas are stopped by police after trying to gain access to the area where Chinese President Xi Jinping is staying in Macau on December 19, 2014
Isaac Lawrence, AFP

"In the light of Hong Kong's umbrella movement, I think Macau people should escalate our actions for democracy," local protest leader Jason Chao told AFP.

"We need a democratic political system in which the citizens can hold the officials accountable," Chao said, adding that despite a huge economic boom in the gambling enclave in the past decade, the quality of life for citizens has been on the decline, with government officials seen as too close to big business.

Similar discontent over corruption and social inequality partly underpins the Hong Kong movement.

Though Macau's democracy movement is not on the scale of Hong Kong's, the territory saw its largest ever protest in May over proposed cash benefits for retired Macau officials, with 20,000 people taking part.

A Macau Government picture shows Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) meeting with a family as Macau Chi...
A Macau Government picture shows Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) meeting with a family as Macau Chief Executive Fernando Chui (2nd R) listens in Macau, December 19, 2014

Xi gave his backing to Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, who he met in Macau on Friday, pledging "full trust" in him following the clearance of the protest camps which blocked major highways for over two months.

Xi's visit was also an opportunity to drive home the message that the territory needs to diversify away from casinos, which have seen revenues dive owing to a national anti-corruption drive and a stuttering economy.

Macau is the only part of China where casino gambling is legal and has depended on high-rollers from the mainland.

But Beijing has warned the southern territory to reconsider its dependence on gaming and is reported to already be clamping down on illicit funds channelled from the mainland through its casinos.

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