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Macau: Defense and Internal Security
Country Study > Defense and Internal Security


Colonial Administration: Portugal withdrew its armed forces in 1975, leaving a police force of 5,800 under the direct control of the governor. Security was the responsibility of a civilian undersecretary for public security. The police were organized into enforcement, investigation, customs, and marine branches.

People's Liberation Army: Since December 20, 1999, the defense of Macau has been the responsibility of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), which stations up to 1,000 troops in the Macau Special Administrative Region. The garrison has its logistics base, medical care, and food supply in the Zhuhai Special Economic Zone, across the border from Macau. According to the Law on Stationing Troops in the Macau Special Administrative Region (or Macau Garrison Law, passed by the NPC Standing Committee on June 28, 1999), the mission of the PLA in Macau is to defend the special administrative region by "preventing and resisting aggression; safe-guarding the security [of Macau]; undertaking defence services; managing military facilities; and handling related foreign military affairs." The PLA can also be called upon by the chief executive to help maintain public order and assist with disaster relief efforts. The members of the garrison are mainly ground force troops.

The Macau Garrison is under the command and control of the Central Military Commission, and its budget is administered by the central government in Beijing. A PLA major general heads the Macau Garrison.

Police: On December 20, 1999, the various police force branches, with the exception of the customs police, who were reassigned to the Financial Service Department, were merged into a single force -- the Macau Security Force -- under the supervision of the secretary of security. At the time of the return of Macau to China's sovereignty, plans were in place to modernize the police force with the goal of better positioning the force to combat organized crime and to stop illegal immigration.

Organized Crime: Increasing crime in the 1990s was attributed to organized crime organizations (triads). One major organization, the 14K Triad, was reported in the mid-1990s to have had a complex and secretive financial and communications network and some 10,000 members. The gambling industry is the major focus of organized crime in Macau. When the 14K Triad's attempt to ally with other triads failed in 1996, gangland violence broke out. With the integration of Macau into China, greater attention has been paid to internal security matters, and the Guangdong Province Public Security Bureau and Macau Security Force began cooperating in a crackdown on organized crime. Within Macau, an organized crime team, comprising personnel from the Security Department and the Justice Department, work on the crackdown on and prosecution of major crime cases. Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah has declared his commitment to "exhaust all possible legal means to smash criminal gangs."

Data as of August 7, 2000

Last Updated: August 2000

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Macau was first published in 2000. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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