Principal Government Officials
Chief of State: President of China Hu Jintao
Head of Government: Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on
The SAR government acts autonomously of Beijing in all areas except foreign affairs and defense, although China's central government has the final authority to appoint the chief executive following his selection and to appoint the chief executive's senior officials on nomination by him.
The chief executive is appointed by the central government for a 5-year term after selection by a 300-member election committee, whose members are nominated by corporate bodies. The chief executive has strong policymaking and executive powers similar to those of a president; no individual may serve for more than two consecutive terms. Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on, formerly Macau's Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture, took office on December 20, 2009. The chief executive appears before a cabinet, the Executive Council (Exco), of between seven and eleven members. The latest Exco, which took office on December 20, 2009, has 10 members.
The legislative organ of the territory is the Legislative Assembly, a 29-member body of 12 directly elected members; 10 indirectly elected members representing four interest groups: 1) employers; 2) labor; 3) professionals; and 4) charity, culture, education and sports; and seven members appointed by the chief executive. In Macau's "executive-led" system, legislation originates in the administration and is submitted to the Legislative Assembly for scrutiny; bills require passage by simple majority, and changes to the Basic Law require passage by a two-thirds majority. In the last election, held in September 2009, a pro-democracy group won an additional seat (increasing to three), a democratic-leaning representative of Macau's civil servants union was re-elected, and traditional and pro-establishment candidates held on to the remaining seats. The city of Macau and the islands of Taipa and Coloane each had a municipal council until January 1, 2002, when the Civic and Municipal Bureau was formally established to replace the two municipal councils.
The legal system is based largely on Portuguese law. The territory has its own independent judicial system, with a high court. Judges are selected by a committee and appointed by the chief executive. Foreign judges may serve on the courts. In July 1999 the chief executive appointed a seven-person committee to select judges for the SAR. Twenty-four judges were recommended by the committee and were then appointed by the chief executive. Macau has three courts: the Court of the First Instance, the Court of the Second Instance, and the Court of Final Appeal, Macau's highest court. Sam Hou Fai is the President (Chief Justice) of the Court of Final Appeal.
According to Articles 13 and 14 of its Basic Law, Macau's foreign relations and defense are the responsibility of China. China does, however, grant Macau considerable autonomy in economic and commercial relations. Macau is a separate customs territory and economic entity from the rest of China and is able to enter into international agreements on its own behalf in commercial and economic matters, as provided in Basic Law Article 136. Macau participates as a member of the Egmont Group, an informal international gathering of financial intelligence units, and is an active member in the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body.
Sources:CIA World Factbook (October 2011)
U.S. Dept. of State Country Background Notes ( October 2011)