Macau territory profile

  • 27 September 2015
  • From the section Asia
Map of Macau

Tiny Macau, a special administrative region of China, has seen its low-key colonial character give way to massive commercial and tourist development.

The former Portuguese colony, a near neighbour of Hong Kong, occupies a small peninsula and two islands off China's southern coast.

Its economy revolves around tourism. Macau has capitalised on its long history as a gambling centre, drawing many thousands of visitors from China and Hong Kong.

Foreign casino companies have invested heavily since Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Ho's decades-long monopoly on the gaming industry ended in 2002. New "mega-casinos", which include major hotel developments, have replaced traditional gambling dens.



Semi-autonomous, special administrative region of China

  • Population 567,000

  • Area 23.8 sq km (9 sq miles)

  • Major languages Chinese (mainly Cantonese), Portuguese (both official)

  • Major religions Buddhism, Christianity

  • Life expectancy 79 (men), 84 (women)

  • Currency Pataca

Getty Images


Chief executive: Fernando Chui

Image copyright Getty Images

Fernando Chui succeeded Edmund Ho in December 2009 to become the territory's second chief executive since the former Portuguese territory reverted to Chinese rule.

He was hand-picked by Beijing to be Mr Ho's successor and stood unopposed, gaining 282 out of 300 possible votes from Macau's Beijing-approved committee of politicians and businessmen.

He was re-elected unchallenged for a second five-year term in 2014.

Ordinary citizens have no direct say in the appointment of their chief executive.

Mr Chui belongs to one of Macau's elite families - as did his predecessor - in a territory known for its close links between government and business.

US-educated, he was a public health administrator before going into politics. He served as Macau's Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture for 10 years until May 2009, when he resigned in order to run for the office of chief executive.


Image copyright Getty Images

The local government is the main media player in Macau; it runs terrestrial TV and radio stations and subsidises the press.

A state security law prohibits "sedition and subversion" against the Beijing government.


Some key dates in Macau's history:

1513 - Portuguese ship anchors in the Pearl River estuary.

18th century - Macau develops into a trading centre.

Mid-1800s - Hong Kong overtakes Macau in trade, merchants gradually desert the Portuguese territory.

1939-1945 - Territory becomes a refuge for Chinese and Europeans during Second World War.

1951 - Portugal officially makes Macau an overseas province.

1974 - Following military coup in Portugal, the government grants more administrative autonomy and economic independence to the territory.

1987 - Portugal and China agree on return of Macau to Chinese, using the Hong Kong Joint Declaration between Britain and China as a model.

1999 - Macau becomes a special administrative region under Chinese sovereignty.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Colonial architecture, as seen in the ruins of St Paul's cathedral, is still evident but is fading

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