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Macau Marks Decade of Chinese Rule

  • Stephanie Ho

Macau, a former Portuguese colony near Hong Kong in southern China, has marked the 10th anniversary of its return to China.

Since China took over Macau ten years ago, the enclave has transformed itself from a sleepy colonial backwater to the world's top gambling capital.

Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal. The territory has become an international gaming hub and has surpassed the U.S. city of Las Vegas as the world's most prosperous casino center.

Chinese President Hu Jintao officiated Sunday at the swearing in of Macau's new chief executive, Fernando Chui.

Chui says the economy is the priority for his five-year term, and that he will pursue what he describes as "appropriate diversification." He says Macau will enhance regulations on the gaming industry, but will also emphasize tourism and culture industries.

Chui also thanked the Chinese president for two pandas China has given to the territory.

Macau and Hong Kong have separate constitutions that guarantee freedoms not available to Chinese in the rest of the country. There has been a strong pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but not in nearby Macau.

President Hu praised Macau's prosperity and stability.

Hu says China wants Hong Kong and Macau to develop, in his words, "together with the great Motherland."

The Chinese president is on his second visit to the enclave since taking office in 2003.

During his official duties in Macau, President Hu Jintao opened a museum, inspected the People's Liberation Army and visited an ordinary family.

Macau returned to China in 1999, after more than four centuries of Portuguese rule.

Macau's casino sector is doing well, despite the global financial crisis, and it contributes greatly to public revenues. At the same time, the boom also has exposed weaknesses, including corruption, organized criminal gangs and North Korean money laundering.

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