China appoints new Macau leader

BEIJING: China Monday formally appointed Fernando Chui as the new chief executive of Macau following his unopposed election last month by the gambling hub's mainly pro-Beijing electoral committee, state media said.

The State Council, or cabinet, made the appointment at a meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao, the Xinhua news agency reported.

A former culture minister of Macau, Chui pledged to diversify the region's economy and rid it of corruption after being named the new chief executive on July 26.

Chui, 52, succeeds Edmund Ho, who led the Macau government since the former Portuguese colony returned to Chinese rule in 1999 and oversaw the liberalisation of the territory's gaming sector in 2002.

Macau, which has a population of 550,000 people, has a separate legal system from the mainland and is the only place on Chinese soil where casino gambling is allowed.

Chui's election was a formality, as he was the only candidate. He won the support of 282, or 94 percent, of the southern Chinese city's 300-member chief executive electoral committee, formed mostly by people with ties to Beijing.

His five-year term runs from December 20, 2009.

Since Macau's gaming market was liberalised in 2002, it has overtaken Las Vegas and Atlantic City combined in terms of gaming revenue as gleaming foreign and locally owned resorts have sprung up.

But the staggering growth has suffered in the past 12 months as Chinese authorities, concerned about the problems of gambling and corruption, have limited the number of visitors to the gaming haven from mainland China.