The immigration authorities at Chinese-controlled Macau have denied entry to two officials of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong.
Both the chairman and president of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Hong Kong were denied entry into the global gambling hub Macau following detention by the immigration officials.
Reuters reports Chairman Robert Grieves and President Tara Joseph were traveling to Macau to attend the annual AmCham Macau Ball when they were denied entry. The officials have not specified the reason for the detention and subsequent treatment as persona non-grata.
In a statement to the press, the two said that the decision to restrict entry was just reactionary.
“We hope that this is just an over-reaction to current events and that international business can constructively forge ahead.”
The two were also made to sign a statement that read that they were voluntarily agreeing not to pursue their entry in Macau.
Macau immigration authorities could not be reached for comment outside of business hours.
Speaking to Reuters about the incident, AmCham President Tara Joseph said that she had no idea and was quite surprised. She also denied any manhandling or untoward behavior on the part of the immigration officials.
The move to deny entry could have been a Chinese reaction to US President Donald Trump signed into law congressional legislation backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong regardless of objections from Beijing.
Hong Kong Protests Impact Macau’s Gambling Industry
Macau relies on its gambling industry for over 80 percent of its tax revenues. The ongoing US-China trade war and the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have had a drastic impact on Macau’s gambling revenue which has suffered consistently over the past year.
According to the latest figures released by the city’s gambling watchdog, Macau casinos reported an 8.5 percent year-on-year drop in revenue in November.
Speaking to Bloomberg last week, Lawrence Ho, head of the regional gambling giant Melco agreed that the protests in Hong Kong have negatively impacted the revenue in Macau.
A section of the Chinese government openly blames foreign powers – the US in particular – for sustained protests and agitations in Hong Kong.
Sending A Message
The move to deny entry to top officials of AmCham could also be seen as a diplomatically symbolic reply to the US for offending China by backing the protestors in Hong Kong.
There are three US-based casino operators in Macau. Their licenses are due to renewal in the coming year. Moreover, President Xi Jinping is visiting Macau in December, which indicates that Macau is very much a concern for China amidst the ongoing trade war and protests.