Abstract: China’s resumption of sovereignty over Macau in 1999 ended almost 450 years of Portuguese occupation. The creation of Macau Special Administrative Region (Macau SAR) in 1999, premised on the unique concept of “One Country, Two Systems,” facilitated the through-train of Macau’s pre-existing Portuguese-style legal system. The continuation of the pre-existing legal system had to operate in a new environment, where Chinese is the offi cial language with room for Portuguese also to be used as an offi cial language by Macau SAR’s legislature, executive and judiciary. In the context of the primacy of the Chinese language and the use of Portuguese in the public sphere in the future Macau SAR administration, the Portuguese administration in its twilight years had to embark on a massive project to translate laws into Chinese, ready in time for adoption in the Macau SAR. With limited know-how and expertise, the translation project was not very successful in the beginning but from statute to statute the quality of translations improved. The challenge facing the Government of the Macau SAR is the successful implementation of the legal system in the changing social context where there is only a tiny fraction of Portuguese speakers among the local residents who man the legislature, judiciary and the administration—in effect the whole government machinery. This article examines how the dualist legal system of early years of Portuguese rule, where Portuguese law applied to the Portuguese residents and Chinese law applied to Chinese residents, evolved into a monist legal system where the Portuguese-style law of Macau applied to all residents. It then examines Macau SAR’s new bilingualism where Portuguese-style laws enacted in Portuguese are made applicable through a Chinese translation. The article does not engage in the discussion of diffi culties in accurately describing Portuguese legal concepts in a language where the associated legal concepts are far from similar, in spite of the fact that civil law has historically infl uenced both Portuguese law and modern Chinese law. The aim of this article is to examine the diffi culties that are encountered, especially the reactions of Chinese legal community, in implementing the laws of Macau SAR as much as possible true to the intent of the lawmaker and propose practical solutions to overcome them.
Keywords: legal dualism; bilingual law; Portuguese law in Macau; Chinese legal language; legal literacy; Continental European civil law; offi cial language policy; legal culture; cost and benefi t analysis
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