New Macau leader to focus on crime, Chinese handover
May 15, 1999
MACAU (CNN) --Banker Edmund Ho, 44, who gave top priority to law and order during his campaign, was elected on Saturday to run Macau when it returns to Chinese control after more than four centuries of Portuguese rule.
Ho said he would focus on forming the first post-handover government which will come into power on December 20, when the Portuguese territory returns to China.
Ho was chosen by a 199-member China-appointed committee to run the territory of more than 400,000 people.
The selection process, which took a little over an hour at the Tourist Center in downtown Macau, was presided over by Chinese Vice-Premier Qian Qichen.
Ho captured 163 of the votes in a two-man race. His rival and fellow banker Stanley Au managed 34 votes. The selection method was similar to one in 1996 that saw former shipping tycoon Tung Chee-hwa chosen by a China-backed committee to head the nearby former British colony of Hong Kong.
Unlike the case of Hong Kong, Ho's team will be new and untested. Almost all of Macau's present team of policy makers and top civil servants are Portuguese who are expected to bow out on the eve of the handover.
Under Macau's post-handover constitution, top government positions must be filled by Chinese citizens in Macau.
Secret societies and rising violence
Speaking to reporters at a news conference, Ho said: "My first task is to set up the first post handover government. I will get wide views on the requirements and criteria of these principle government officials."
He said he expected to form his team in two months.
Turning to Macau's problem of secret societies and rising violence in recent years, Ho said once his team was formed, he would formulate strategies to deal with crime.
"I fully understand that the people in Macau are very concerned about law and order. Therefore the top priority of the government will be to put strong focus on this issue," he said.
Casinos fuel economy
The enclave, with an economy largely based on casinos, has been rocked by rising violence and turf wars between rival triads trying to dominate illegal businesses. Protection rackets, prostitution, loansharking and moneylending have flourished for years alongside the legal and highly lucrative gambling business.
Ho is the son of Ho Yin, a famous Chinese community leader in Macau, who dominated local politics for three decades until his death in 1983. The younger Ho took over the family's troubled Tai Fung Bank in 1984, which was bailed out of its problems by Bank of China that same year.
The Bank of China now owns 50 percent of Tai Fung.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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