12-3 incident

The 12-3 incident (Chinese: 一二·三事件; Portuguese: Motim 1-2-3) refers to political demonstrations and rioting against Portuguese rule in Macau that occurred on 3 December 1966. The incident, inspired by the Cultural Revolution in the People's Republic of China, occurred in direct response to a violent police crackdown by the Portuguese colonial authorities against local Chinese protestors demonstrating against corruption and colonialism in Macau. The incident is known as "12-3", in reference to the date of the riots.[5]

12-3 incident
Part of decolonisation of Asia and Portuguese Colonial War
12-3 Incident Apology.jpg
The Portuguese governor of Macau signing a statement of apology under a portrait of Mao Zedong.
DateNovember 1966 – January 1967
MethodsDemonstrations, strikes, boycotts
Resulted inThe Portuguese colonial government agreed to meet the demands of protestors, placing the colony under the de facto control of the People's Republic of China.
Parties to the civil conflict

Struggle Committee against Portuguese Persecution

Supported by:
 People's Republic of China

Red Guards
Lead figures
António Lopes dos Santos
José Manuel Nobre de Carvalho
Carlos da Silva Carvalho
Ho Yin
Huang Yongsheng[1]
Zhao Ziyang[1]

15,000 troops
5 warships

15,000 Red Guards
Casualties and losses
No deaths, some injuries reported
  • 8 protestors killed, 212 injured
  • 25 Red Guards[3][4]
12-3 incident
Traditional Chinese澳門一二·三事件
Simplified Chinese澳门一二·三事件
Literal meaningMacau 1 2-3 Event

Pressured by business leaders in Macau and the mainland Chinese government, the colonial government agreed to meet the demands of the protestors and apologized for the police crackdown. Portuguese sovereignty over Macau became severely diminished after the incident, leading to de facto Chinese suzerainty over the territory 33 years prior to the eventual official transfer of sovereignty.[6]


The Portuguese occupation of Macau is broadly divided into three different political periods.[7] The first, being the establishment of the first Portuguese settlement in Macau from 1557 until 1849.[8] During this period the settlement administrators only had jurisdiction over the Portuguese community.[7] The second period, known as the colonial period, scholars generally place from 1849 to 1974. It was in this period the Portuguese colonial administration began to take an active role in the lives of both the Portuguese and ethnic Chinese communities in Macau.[9]

On 26 March 1887, the Lisbon Protocol was signed, in which China recognized the "perpetual occupation and government of Macau" by Portugal who in turn, agreed never to surrender Macau to a third party without the consent of the Chinese government.[10] This was reaffirmed in the Treaty of Peking on 1 December 1887.[10] Throughout the colonial administration of Macau, development of Portuguese Macau stagnated due to a complex colonial bureaucracy and corruption.[11][unreliable source?] Racial segregation and division also existed throughout society. Within the governance of Macau, almost all government officers and civil service positions were held by local Portuguese residents.[1]

In September 1945, Republic of China Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed to the Portuguese government a desire to transfer Macau back to Chinese control. However, due to the Chinese Civil War, discussions related between the Kuomintang and the Portuguese were postponed indefinitely.[12] In 1949, with the founding of the People's Republic of China a large number of refugees and Kuomintang supporters fled China to Portuguese Macau.[12]

Before the 12-3 incident, the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party parties both maintained a presence in Macau. With the founding of the People's Republic, the colonial Portuguese government opened unofficial relations with the People's Republic of China in contrast to the Republic of China due to its direct proximity of Macau with a land border. Following the founding of the PRC, the influence of the communists grew substantially in Macau especially among business leaders throughout the region, while it decreased with the nationalists.[13]

The incidentEdit

Schools and education in Macau were divided on racial lines, with the Portuguese and Macanese sending their children to fully subsidized private schools while the Chinese population had to send their children to either Catholic or Communist schools.[14] The segregation of education in Macau was an area of great contention for the local populations.[14] In 1966, residents of Taipa Island, sponsored by the Chinese communists, tried to obtain permission to build a private school.[15] Despite being granted a plot of land by the Portuguese authorities, Portuguese officials delayed the processing of the building permits, as they had not received any bribes from the residents of Taipa Island.[15] In spite of receiving no building permits from the local administration, local residents began construction of the private school.[16]

On 15 November 1966, Urban Services Officers on Taipa blocked further construction of the school, leading to a confrontation between Chinese protesters and Macau Police.[15] The police, including plain-clothes officers, injured over 40 people, of whom 14 were later detained.[17]

In response, a group of around 60 Chinese students and workers demonstrated outside the Governor's Palace in support of the residents of Taipa Island. The demonstrators shouted revolutionary slogans and read aloud from Mao Zedong's Little Red Book.[18] On 3 December 1966, demonstrators began to riot and denounced Portuguese authorities for "fascist atrocities".[19] Protestors, instigated by local communists and pro-Beijing business owners, ransacked Portuguese institutions throughout Macau such as the Macau City Hall and Public Notary's Office.[1] Violence was also directed towards local Chinese businesses and organizations loyal to the Republic of China government now located in Taipei. Unlike in neighboring Hong Kong – which faced similar leftist riots – the business community largely did not back the colonial government.

In Mainland China, specifically in Guangdong, Red Guards, inspired by the Cultural Revolution and angered by the violence towards Chinese in Macau, began to protest in large numbers at the mainland China–Macau border.[1]

On 3 December, the colonial government ordered the rioters and demonstrators to be arrested, leading to even more mass discontent and popular support for opposition to the Portuguese administration. In response, demonstrators toppled the statue of Colonel Vicente Nicolau de Mesquita at Largo do Senado, the city center, and also tore off the right arm of a statue of Jorge Álvares located on the former outer harbor ferry port.[20] At the Leal Senado or city hall, portraits of former governors were torn off the walls, and books and city records were tossed into the street and set on fire.[21] Consequently, martial law was declared, authorizing a Portuguese military garrison and police to crack down on the protests.[6] As a result, 8 people were killed by police and 212 were injured.[5]


Ho Yin, Beijing's "unofficial representative" in Macau with Mao Zedong in 1956.

In response to the crackdown, the Portuguese government immediately implemented a news blockade, Portuguese-language newspapers and magazines were banned, and newspapers in Portugal and overseas provinces were ordered to censor reports about the incident. In response to the incident, the Chinese government deployed the People's Liberation Army to the Chinese-Portuguese Macau border to prevent Red Guards from invading Macau.[22][1] Four Chinese warships also entered the waters of Macau in response to the crackdown.[1]

The security ring set around Macau by the Chinese would be involved in multiple casualty-causing conflicts with Red Guards attempting to invade Macau by both land and by sea.[1]: 212–213  The pro-Beijing community in Macau adopted a "Three No's" approach as a means to continue their struggle with the Government — no taxes, no service, no selling to the Portuguese.[18] Representing Chinese Macau was the pro-Beijing Struggle Committee against Portuguese Persecution, known locally as the Committee of Thirteen. Chairman of the Committee was Leong Pui, the leader of the pro-Beijing Macau General Association of Labour.[1]: 211 

Negotiations to resolve and prevent further escalation between the People's Republic of China, Committee of Thirteen, and the Portuguese government took place in Guangdong. The chief negotiator for the Chinese was Ho Yin, whose involvement and commitment to resolve the crisis caused by the riot was crucial because at that time he was the only one who could contact directly both the Portuguese administration and Chinese officials in Guangzhou and Beijing, as he was the representative of Macau in the Legislative Council.[23]

The Portuguese, due to increasing pressures from both Beijing and Lisbon, agreed to sign agreements with the Committee of Thirteen and the Guangdong Government Foreign Affairs Bureau, along with an official statement of apology, and accepted responsibility for the events on 3 December 1966.[24] On 29 January 1967, the Portuguese Governor, José Manuel de Sousa e Faro Nobre de Carvalho, with the endorsement of Portuguese Prime Minister Salazar, signed a statement of apology at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, under a portrait of Mao Zedong, with Ho, as the Chamber's President, presiding.[25][26]

Alongside the apology, the Portuguese agreed to reinforce the role of the Macau Chinese business elite in running the governmental affairs of Macau, promised to never use force against the Chinese community of Macau, and agreed to pay reparations to the Chinese community in Macau to the sum of 2 million Macanese pataca as compensation for the eight dead and 212 injured.[27] In contrast, the agreement signed with the Guangdong government was more favorable to the Portuguese; per the agreement, the Chinese government would take back all refugees who arrived in Macau from 30 January 1967 on wards, a promise China would keep until 1978.[1]: 216 

This marked the beginning of equal treatment and recognition of Chinese identity in Macau and the beginning of de facto Chinese control of the territory with Chinese Communist Ho Yin becoming the de facto governor of Macau.[6] The Portuguese Foreign Minister, Alberto Franco Nogueira, described Portugal's role in Macau after 1967 as "a caretaker of a condominium under foreign supervision".[25] Chinese media described the political situation of Macau as a "half liberated zone".[24][28] Shortly after the agreements were signed, Chinese military forces around Macau were withdrawn and the Red Guard threat had subsided.[27]: 235 


With the Portuguese now only nominally in control of Macau, political power would increasingly rest with the pro-Beijing trade unions and business leaders.[29] The official Portuguese and Chinese positions about the political status of Macau did not differ, as both now described the region as a Chinese territory under Portuguese administration and not a colony or overseas territory.[25][30][2]

As a consequence of Beijing's increasing influence, pro-Kuomintang activities in Macau were banned, and the Republic of China's diplomatic mission was closed.[2][31] The flying of the flag of the Republic of China was banned, and Kuomintang-run schools were also closed.[19][2] In addition, refugees from mainland China were either barred from entering or returned to China.[23][2]

Emboldened by their success against the Portuguese, the Committee of Thirteen encouraged demonstrations against other institutions in Macau that were perceived to be antagonistic towards the People's Republic. Specifically, the British Consulate and the Macau Branch of the Hong Kong Immigration department were once again targeted by protestors.[1] British consular staff in Macau were under constant threat and harassment by Red Guards, leading to the closure of the British consulate in 1967.[32][33]

On 25 April 1974, a group of left-wing Portuguese officers organized a coup d'état in Portugal, overthrowing the right-wing ruling government that had been in power for 48 years. The new government began to transition Portugal to a democratic system and was committed to decolonization. The new Portuguese government carried out de-colonization policies and proposed Macau's handover to China to occur in 1978.[25] The Chinese government rejected this proposal, believing that an early transfer of Macau would impact relations with Hong Kong.[25]

On 31 December 1975, the Portuguese government withdrew its remaining troops from Macau. On 8 February 1979, the Portuguese government decided to break off diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, and established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China the next day. Both Portugal and the People's Republic of China recognized Macau as Chinese territory. The colony remained under Portuguese rule until 20 December 1999, when it was transferred to China. Ho Yin's son, Edmund Ho Hau Wah, would become the first Chief Executive of the Macau Special Administrative Region following the transfer of sovereignty in 1999.[34]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Institutions such as the Macau Branch of the Hong Kong Immigration Department and the British Consulate were targeted during the incident and in its immediate aftermath. In response to the police crackdown on Taipa Island, nearly 2000 Chinese refugees fled Macau to Hong Kong, fleeing the crackdown and political instability following the clash between protestors and the government.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Fernandes, Moisés Silva. “Macau in Chinese Foreign Policy during the Cultural Revolution, 1966-1968.” Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies 17/18 (2010): 209–24.
  2. ^ a b c d e f 陳堅銘. "國共在澳門的競逐── 以 [一二‧ 三事件](1966-67) 為中心." "The Competition of the Kuomintang and Communist Party of China in Macau-Focusing on the 12-3 Incident (1966-67)" 臺灣國際研究季刊 11, no. 4 (2015): 153-177.
  3. ^ "O Jornal do Brasil". 20 December 1966.
  4. ^ "A Notícia, O Jornal do Brasil, Le Parisien libere, Le Courrier de l'Escaust". 20 December 1966.
  5. ^ a b Macau History and Society, Zhidong Hao, Hong Kong University Press, 2011. ISBN 9789888028542. page 215
  6. ^ a b c Portugal, China and the Macau Negotiations, 1986-1999, Carmen Amado Mendes, Hong Kong University Press, 2013, page 34
  7. ^ a b Cardinal 2009, p. 225
  8. ^ Halis, Denis de Castro (2015). "'Post-Colonial' Legal Interpretation in Macau, China: Between European and Chinese Influences". In East Asia's Renewed Respect for the Rule of Law in the 21st Century. Leiden: Brill Nijhoff. ISBN 978-90-04-27420-4. pp. 70–71
  9. ^ Hao 2011, p. 40
  10. ^ a b Mayers, William Frederick (1902). Treaties Between the Empire of China and Foreign Powers (4th ed.). Shanghai: North-China Herald. pp. 156–157.
  11. ^ 黃東 Huáng dōng (8 December 2016). "民族主義與一二.三事件 Nationalism and 1-2-3 events". 訊報.
  12. ^ a b 陳堅銘 (1 December 2015). "《國共在澳門的競逐 ── 以「一二•三事件」(1966-67)為中心》"KMT's Race in Macao-Focusing on" 1-2-3 Incidents "(1966-67)"" (PDF). 《臺灣國際研究季刊》(Taiwan International Studies Quarterly). 11 (4): 153–177. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 February 2019. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  13. ^ 何曼盈 (2013). "Infiltration of the State's Discourse Right and the Status of the Association of Macao Before the Return". "Research on "One Country, Two Systems" (17): 123–129.
  14. ^ a b Chan, Monica Kiteng. “Memory Plaza: Encounter and Missed Encounter.” Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies 17/18 (2010): 233–41.
  15. ^ a b c Hong Kong's Watershed: The 1967 Riots, Gary Ka-wai Cheung, Hong Kong University Press, 2009, page 16
  16. ^ Sovereignty at the Edge: Macau and the Question of Chineseness, Cathryn H. Clayton, Harvard University Press, 2009, page 47
  17. ^ Selected Hsinhua News Items, Xinhua News Agency, 1966, page 144
  18. ^ a b Twentieth Century Colonialism and China: Localities, the Everyday, and the World, Bryna Goodman, David Goodman Routledge, 2012, pages 217-218
  19. ^ a b It Is My Opinion, Irene Corbally Kuhn, Reading Eagle, 19 January 1967
  20. ^ The Voices of Macao Stones: The Nanjing Massacre Witnessed by American and British Nationals, Lindsay Ride, May Ride, Jason Wordie, Hong Kong University Press, 1999, page 23
  21. ^ Rioters Fight Macao Police, The Evening Independent, 3 December 1966, page 14A
  22. ^ "Report of the Acting Director-General of Political Affairs of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, João Hall Themido, 28 December 1966," PAA M. 1171, Portuguese Historic-Diplomatic Archives (AHDMNE), Lisbon.
  23. ^ a b Macao Is A Relic Of Bygone Era Of European Gunboat Diplomacy, David J Paine, Associated Press, Daily News, 14 May 1971, page 17
  24. ^ a b Xhu, Chenpin. "【澳门回归20年】回顾"一二·三"反抗殖民血泪史 [Macao's 20 years of reunification] Reviewing the history of "One, Two, Three" resistance to colonial blood and tears". DWNews.
  25. ^ a b c d e Naked Tropics: Essays on Empire and Other Rogues, Kenneth Maxwell, Psychology Press, 2003, page 279
  26. ^ "A guerra e as respostas militar e política 5.Macau: Fim da ocupação perpétua (War and Military and Political Responses 5.Macau: Ending Perpetual Occupation)". RTP.pt. RTP. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  27. ^ a b Fernandes, Moisés Silva (2006). Macau na Política Externa Chinesa, 1949-1979 (Macao in Chinese Foreign Policy, 1949-1979). Lisbon: Impresna de Ciêncas Sociais. p. 237.
  28. ^ "澳门《基本法》不含普选承诺 中共「抬澳贬港」漠视两地差异 Macau's "Basic Law" does not include universal suffrage commitments". Radio Free Asia.
  29. ^ Far Eastern Economic Review, 1974, page 439
  30. ^ 3Franco Nogueira, Salazar: estudo biografico, 6 vols. (Coimbra: Athintida Editora, 1977), III, 393.
  31. ^ Macao Locals Favor Portuguese Rule, Sam Cohen, The Observer in Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 2 June 1974, page 4H
  32. ^ Fernandes, Moisés Silva(2004) "As prostrações das instituições britânicas em Macau durante a 'revolução cultural' chinesa em Maio de 1967 e algumas das suas consequências" ("The Prostration of British Institutions in Macau during the 'Chinese Cultural' Revolution in May 1967 and some of its Repercussions") Daxiyangguo: Revista Portuguesa de Estudos Asiáticos (Portuguese Journal of Asian Studies)
  33. ^ Davies, Hugh. "An Undiplomatic Foray: A 1967 Escapade in Macau." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Hong Kong Branch 47 (2007): 115-26. Accessed 9 January 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23889787.
  34. ^ Who's Who in China's Leadership - Edmund Ho Hau Wah 何厚铧, China.org.cn, 28 October 2013

External linksEdit