Macau profile

Map of Macau
Map of Macau

Tiny Macau, a special administrative region of China, has seen its low-key colonial character give way to massive commercial and tourist development.

The former Portuguese colony, a near neighbour of Hong Kong, occupies a small peninsula and two islands off China's southern coast.

Its economy revolves around tourism. Macau has capitalised on its long history as a gambling centre, drawing many thousands of visitors from China and Hong Kong.

Foreign casino companies have invested heavily since Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Ho's decades-long monopoly on the gaming industry ended in 2002. New "mega-casinos", which include major hotel developments, have replaced traditional gambling dens.

MACAU SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION OF THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA: FACTS

  • Administrative centre: São Lourenço

  • Area: 115.3 sq km

  • Languages: Chinese, Portuguese

  • Population: 682,300

  • Life expectancy: 83 years (men) 88 years (women)

LEADER

Chief executive: Ho Iat-seng

Ho Iat-seng was elected as chief executive of Macau in August 2019, succeeding Fernando Chui, to become the territory's third chief executive since the former Portuguese territory reverted to Chinese rule.

Ordinary citizens have no direct say in the appointment of their chief executive.

MEDIA

Macau skyline
Macau skyline

The local government is the main media player in Macau; it runs terrestrial TV and radio stations and subsidises the press.

The media express a range of views but a US human rights report says the media sometimes self-censor.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Macau's history:

1513 - Portuguese ship anchors in the Pearl River estuary.

18th Century - Macau develops into a trading centre.

Mid-1800s - Hong Kong overtakes Macau in trade, merchants gradually desert the Portuguese territory.

1939-1945 - Territory becomes a refuge for Chinese and Europeans during World War Two.

1951 - Portugal officially makes Macau an overseas province.

1974 - Following military coup in Portugal, the government grants more administrative autonomy and economic independence to the territory.

1987 - Portugal and China agree on return of Macau to Chinese, using the Hong Kong Joint Declaration between Britain and China as a model.

1999 - Macau becomes a special administrative region under Chinese sovereignty.

Ruins of St Paul's in Macau
Colonial architecture, as seen in the ruins of St Paul's cathedral, is still evident but is fading