In 1535, Portuguese traders obtained the rights to anchor ships in Macau’s harbors and to carry out trade. Then in 1557, they established a permanent settlement there. In 1999, 442 years later, the same year China banned the Falun Gong religious cult, Macao was back.
Since Macau was returned to China in 1999, it has overtaken Las Vegas to become the world’s biggest gambling mecca. Since 1999, Macau, along with Hong Kong, is one of the two special administrative regions of the People’s Republic of China, and it is situated on the western side of the Pearl River Delta across from Hong-Kong.
The next building trend expanded Macao into a global entertainment and high-end shopping hub along with leisure activities, but that has not matched the success of gambling that remains Macau’s main money maker. In fact, almost every business depends on the gambling to survive.
However, the days of Chinese Triads having shooting wars on Macau’s streets are histroy. The Chinese Communist Party will not tolerate the violence and the People’s Liberation Army is much larger than any triad gang. If the CCP will ban the Falun Gong for illegally protesting in China, imagine what it would do to the triads.
Macao is not China even though it is technically part of the People’s Republic. The World History Blog provides a short history of the former Portuguese colony, which is a Special Administrative Region in China today but has more in common with the Principality of Monaco or Las Vegas.
Macao’s location was first settled by members of the South Sung Dynasty escaping invading Mongols in 1277. Centuries later, Portuguese traders built a staging port there, the oldest European settlement in the Far East.
The Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643) did not recognize that Macao belonged to Portugal and collected rent until 1849 when the Portuguese, taking advantage of China’s defeat during the first opium war with England and France, declared Macau’s independence from China.
Britannica reports the 1999 transfer agreement allowed Macao to govern itself with a one-house legislature and a legal system based on Portuguese law, not China’s legal system.
David Campion writes, “As in Havana and Las Vegas, the gambling economy in Macau was first built up and its rules enforced by clever and well-organized gangsters, here called Triads. Once a date was set for the departure of the Portuguese, the Triads fought amongst each other viciously for greater control over the territory before the PRC was due to come in and rain on their parade (which it didn’t, as it turned out).”
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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