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A Timeline of Macau History

Here follow the key dates of the Portuguese presence in Macau, summarizing 442 years, finishing with the retrocession of Macau to China in 1999:

Important dates in the history of Macau


  • old macao1557: Portugal opens the first European trading post in Asia in the small fishing village called Amacau. China accepts their presence and cedes the peninsula of Macau to Portugal in recognition for their help in defeating the Chinese pirates.
  • 1580: The Portuguese install a Catholic Bishop in Macau, Timor, Malacca (Malaysia) and Singapore.
  • 1680: The first government is appointed by the Portuguese, even though they remain under partial Chinese control, to whom they pay a lease until 1849.
  • 1887: China recognizes the rights of Portugal over Macau, though the frontiers will never clearly be defined.
  • Having become a major trading post between China and Europe, Macau’s influence diminishes throughout the 19th century, losing business to its rival Hong Kong. However it remained an important centre for trading rice as well as gambling and opium smuggling.
  • 1966: Following the cultural revolution on the mainland, there was violent unrest in the Portuguese enclave. Lisbon offered to retrocede the territory to China who refused (there was no lease on Macau and retrocession could be negotiated at any time).
  • Lisbon 1976: Two years after the “Carnation Revolution”, Lisbon published a new Statute to Macau granting more economic, financial and administrative autonomy to the territory. The new Portuguese Constitution of April 2nd, stated that “the territory of Macau, under Portuguese administration, is governed by a statute appropriate to its particular situation”.
  • 1979: Following full normalization of relations between Lisbon and Beijing, the Chinese and Portuguese Ambassadors in France meet in secret in Paris, to discuss the question of Macao. They sign an agreement whereby the Portuguese agree on principle that “Macau is part of the Chinese territory and will be returned to China at an appropriate time following negotiations between the governments of both countries”.
  • 1982: Following a revision of the Portuguese Constitution, Macau is described as a “Chinese territory under Portuguese control”.
  • 1985: A common declaration is issued following the official visit of the Portuguese President to China in May, stating that Portugal and China “had agreed to initiate diplomatic negotiations in the near future to resolve the question of Macau”.
  • 1986: An official series of negotiations is opened in June in Beijing, between delegations of both countries to discuss the retrocession of Macau to China.
  • 1987: An agreement is reached and signed between Beijing and Lisbon fixing the return of Macau to China in December 1999.
  • 1992: Beijing adopts the basic law that will govern the future special administrative region of Macao.
  • 1997: Portugal and China sign an agreement in Lisbon regarding the contract to allow games in Macao, as well as the new status of the “Oriente Foundation” created with the proceeds from gambling, and the creation of a new foundation.
  • 1999:
  • May 15th : The banker Edmund Ho is elected Head of the first post-colonial government and takes up his functions on December 20th, date of the official retrocession of the Portuguese colony to China.
  • June 29th : Beijing officially declares the stationing of troops in Macao following the retrocession of the Portuguese colony.

Economy : The territory has no agricultural or mining wealth and 70% of revenues come from gambling revenues (casino, horse and greyhound racing).

Local Currency : The Pataca, indexed on the Hong Kong dollar.