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LI MIN/CHINA DAILY

SAR"s destiny linked to that of motherland

Looking back over 20 years of stellar progress in Macao, Lilybeth Deapera sees much to celebrate.

As Philippine consul general in the special administrative region, she is impressed by its fast pace of development, its capacity to recover quickly from disasters and its welcoming attitude to the migrant Filipino community.

As Macao marks the 20th anniversary of its return to the motherland, Deapera said she hopes it will continue to be successful in the years ahead.

China resumed sovereignty over Macao in December 1999 and established the SAR to exercise "one country, two systems"-the unique principle allowing the Macao and Hong Kong SARs to practice a capitalist system-while the mainland continues with a socialist one.

Macao"s progress over the past two decades has been marked by political stability, social harmony, economic prosperity and cultural diversity.

Fernando Chui Sai-on, chief executive of Macao since 2009, who is stepping down on Friday, said that pivotal to this success is the government"s strict implementation of the Basic Law of the Macao SAR and the principle of "one country, two systems", which grants the city a high degree of autonomy.

Fu Ziying, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People"s Government in the Macao SAR, said the past 20 years have witnessed the fastest and greatest development in Macao"s history, with macroeconomic indicators showing a brilliant performance.

The city has also passed laws to protect national sovereignty, security and interests, Fu said.

Macao"s GDP surged from $6.1 billion in 1999 to $54.56 billion last year. Per capita GDP grew five times from 1999 to last year, fiscal reserves shot up 193-fold, foreign currency reserves rose sixfold while the unemployment rate fell from 6.3 percent to 1.8 percent.

Wang Zhenmin, an expert on Hong Kong Basic Law and Macao Basic Law, said the successful transformation of politics and law laid a solid foundation for Macao"s effective governance.

By applying the Basic Law, the governing system was refined. A new law safeguarding national security was adopted in 2009. Other legislation protecting the Chinese national flag and emblem progressed smoothly, Wang said.

Raising the national flag and singing the anthem are common in local schools. On July 5, after chairing his last meeting of the Legislative Council and joining the election for chief executive, Ho Iat-seng, who becomes Macao"s fifth-term leader on Friday, bowed before the national flag and emblem as well as the regional flag and emblem.

Ho said he was "representing our respect for the country and the will to be exemplary in practicing "one country, two systems"".

Wang, who is also director of the Center for Hong Kong and Macao Research at Tsinghua University, said practical and effective practices for elections-combining direct votes and consultation, plus full respect for the central government-led to a smooth administrative transfer.

Edmund Ho Hau-wah, Macao"s first chief executive from 1999 to 2009, said, "Over the past two decades, Macao has combined its own destiny with that of the motherland."

He said that when Macao returned to the motherland, the city had a weak economy, a high unemployment rate and serious security issues.

"I set myself a task that the region should implement the Basic Law strictly and make the principle of "one country, two systems" a success in Macao," he said.

"I am gratified to see that Macao has improved a lot in the past 20 years ... This couldn"t have been achieved without support from the country or without the efforts of the Macao people," he said.

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