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Police fire shots into air at Macau May Day protest against immigrant workers, corruption

Police fire shots into air at Macau May Day protest against immigrant workers, corruption

Police fired shots into the air and used pepper spray Tuesday to disperse demonstrators who tried to break through police lines during a May Day march in the booming Chinese casino city of Macau.
About 1,000 protesters, demanding a crackdown on illegal workers and corruption, veered off a march route arranged by officers and clashed with police, who responded with about five warning shots.
There were no reported injuries. It was not immediately clear whether the police fired bullets or blanks. Several marchers were taken away in handcuffs by police.
Despite the shots, the protesters broke through the police line and continued marching to the city's government headquarters.
Police used pepper spray and batons in a bid to stop the crowd from moving forward, while protesters threw back water bottles and raw eggs. Riot police in full gear and police dogs were also deployed to surround the marchers.
After an hourlong standoff, the protesters began to disperse.
Lawmaker Jose Coutinho, who participated in the protest, sponsored by several labor unions, said the gunshots were unnecessary.
"The protest was peacefully conducted. It's not acceptable to fire gunshots. It was quite dangerous at the time," Coutinho told Hong Kong's Cable TV.
The protesters demanded crackdowns on corruption and illegal workers in the Chinese territory, which recently eclipsed Las Vegas as the world's most lucrative gambling center.
Macau has suffered a severe labor shortage in recent years as some of the world's wealthiest casino operators _ MGM Mirage Inc., Steve Wynn and Las Vegas Sands Corp. _ built massive casino resorts, convention centers and shopping malls in the city on China's southern coast.
Some protesters carried signs saying, "Severely punish employers of black-market workers." Others cheered when protest leaders demanded that the territory's leader, Edmund Ho, resign.
Lawmaker Antonio Ng said the local building boom has not benefited local people. "The construction industry should have been prosperous now with so many casino projects. But the oversupply of foreign workers forced locals into temporary jobs," he said.
Such protests are uncommon in the tiny former Portuguese enclave, which returned to Chinese rule in 1999. Macau's population of about a half million people has generally deferred to Beijing's views on political and social issues.
The territory is a stark contrast to nearby Hong Kong, another former European colony, which was returned to China two years before Macau. Hong Kongers routinely hold street protests demanding greater democracy and better working conditions. Macau and Hong Kong are both ruled under China's "one country, two systems" formula, designed to give them a wide degree of autonomy.
Macau _ a peninsula and two islands _ is the only place in China that allows casino gambling. A monopoly on the industry was broken up a few years ago, and foreign gambling companies _ mostly from Las Vegas _ were allowed into the market.
This has drastically changed Macau, once a sleazy casino town infested with criminal gangs that often waged bloody turf wars. The flashy new Las Vegas-style casinos are pulling in hordes of mainland Chinese gamblers, who last year helped Macau rake in US$6.95 billion (


Updated : 2020-12-03 13:19 GMT+08:00