Macau Overview
The Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China, commonly known as Macau or Macao, confined by the geographic limit is a small territory on the southern coast of China that covers a total area of just 29.2 square kilometers.
Macau, made up of Macau peninsula and two small islands to the south - Taipa and Coloane – linked by three bridges and a causeway was established as a trading colony in 1557, after Portuguese navigators first landed in the early 1500’s and became the oldest European outpost in China.
However the People’s Republic of China and Portugal embarked on several rounds of negotiation that led in the signing in 1987 of the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration, that resumed its sovereignty over Macau on December 20th, 1999 and the Macau SAR was formally established.
Since then Macau operates under the “one country, two systems” principle that, together with the Basic Law of Macau SAR – adopted by the National People’s Congress (NPC) as the constitutional law -, sustain that in China the mainland practices the socialist system while Macau – together with Hong Kong SAR – retain the original capitalist system and way of life unchanged for 50 years.
Guaranteed with a special administrative region status, Macau SAR enjoys a high degree of autonomy.
A high degree of autonomy means that apart from foreign and national defense affairs, which should be administered by the central authorities, the Macau SAR enjoys the power of decision over matters within their autonomous jurisdiction, including executive, legislative and judicial and shall maintain its own separate currency, custom territory, immigration and border controls and police force.
The legal system of Macau was not substantially modified in 1999 as a result of the transfer of power from Portugal to the PRC given that there is a principle of continuity of the pre-existing legal system, according to which all sources in force prior to the transfer of sovereignty continued to apply, with some minor exceptions that were specified in December 1999.
Broadly based on Portuguese law and therefore the civil law tradition of Continental European legal system, Macau SAR has the five “classic” codifications: the Civil Code, the Commercial Code, the Civil Procedure Code, the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. In addition, there are a number of other small codifications supported in a bilingual legal system.
The courts of the Macao SAR exercise judicial power independently. They are subordinated to nothing but the law and are not subject to any interference. The Judiciary comprises Court of First Instance, Court of Second Instance and Court of Final Appeal. The territory also has an Administrative Court, which has jurisdiction over administrative cases. Members of judiciary are selected by a committee and appointed by the Chief of Executive.
No death penalty is currently imposed in Macau SAR.


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