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Macau: a legal platform between Europe and China?



This coming Monday I will be presenting a paper at the ’31st Annual Australian and New Zealand Law and History Society Conference: Receiving Laws/Giving Laws’, to be held at the Faculty of Law of the University of Technology of Sydney.

Here is the abstract:

Macau, a tiny city located in Eastern Asia, was the first European settlement in the Far East. The territory was established as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China in 1999, after four centuries of Portuguese rule. Since then, Macau has enjoyed a high degree of autonomy following the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ formula – guaranteed until 2049 both under the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration and the Macau Basic Law. Due to historical reasons, Macau has a clear Civil Law background, with a strong influence and legacy from the Portuguese administration. These Civil Law foundations were maintained with the transition of sovereignty in 1999. Before the transfer of sovereignty, a so-called “process of localization of Law” took place, and Macau elaborated and adopted its own Civil Code, Civil Procedural Code, Commercial Code, Penal Code and Criminal Procedural Code. The Macanese legal system is bilingual: both Chinese and Portuguese are official languages and all laws are equally drafted in bilingual versions.

Macau has long performed an inimitable role as an economic co-operation service platform between China and the Portuguese-Speaking Countries (PSCs). Although the existence of a ‘Lusophone legal system’ is disputed, the similitude between legal frameworks in the Portuguese-speaking world cannot be argued. A common history left a clear trace and the influence of Portuguese law is still evident today. Such a clear similarity between the legal systems of PSCs brings undeniable advantages. The existence of common legal values and, above all, of a common language, makes it easier to boost commercial exchanges and deepen long-lasting relationships between Lusophone companies. Macau is an excellent example of the phenomenon of ‘reception of laws’. Located 11.000 kms from Lisbon, this tiny territory has a legal system that is clearly Portuguese-based. For example, its Civil and Commercial Codes have a markedly European influence. In our paper we will revise the process of legal ‘reception’ and ‘localization’ in Macau but also discuss possible avenues of development. Taking into account the perennial role of Macau as a platform between Europe and China, we basically aim to answer two different questions: to what extent may Macau still benefit from the development of European Law? And, on the other hand, does Macau have any role to play in the process of reform of Mainland China’s legal system?

More here.


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