SCMP Monday, July 3, 2000

Tear-gas used in Macau protest

HARALD BRUNING in Macau


Macau police fired tear-gas to break up a protest by unemployed workers yesterday, the first time the gas had been used since riots during the Cultural Revolution in 1966.

Public Security Police Commander Jose Proenca Branco authorised the use of tear-gas to disperse about 100 demonstrators who refused to end their sit-in at one of Macau's busiest junctions. Detectives arrested eight protesters in the fracas that followed on Rua do Visconde Paco de Arcos in the Inner Harbour. A water cannon and eight rounds of tear-gas were used.

"The police should not have used tear-gas like the Portuguese colonialists did when they suppressed demonstrations by local Chinese people in 1966," said one of the protesters.

A police spokesman said: "We used adequate force to disperse the demonstrators, who had blocked the junction for three hours."

The rally, which resulted in Macau's biggest traffic jam in recent years, started at 2.30pm at Iao Hon Park and involved about 230 unemployed workers demonstrating against the importation of cheap labour.

Scuffles with police started at 3.15pm, when demonstrators reached the junction in the Inner Harbour. Several dozen tactical unit constables were deployed to prevent the protesters from marching to the main thoroughfare, Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro.

While most gradually left the area due to the heavy police presence, about 100 staged a sit-in at the junction. Some protesters started to throw stones and bamboo scaffolding rods at about 50 officers, prompting police to make repeated baton charges.

Police gave the protesters several ultimatums to end the sit-in before firing a water cannon and tear-gas to disperse the demonstrators. A police spokesman said eight protesters had been detained for questioning and would appear in court tomorrow. There were no injuries.

It was the fourth street demonstration by unemployed workers and labour activists in the past two months. The three previous protests included scuffles but no major violence.