Is the internet censored in Macau? Considering all the protests and riots in neighboring Hong Kong, it’s natural to wonder how China deals with Macau. Most people are aware that China heavily censors its internet, but what about Macau? Do you need a VPN in Macau?
Macau is a boring territory relative to the other special regions which tend to hog all of the news headlines. Taiwan wants independence. Hong Kong wants autonomy.
…wait, who the heck is Macau?
True though this may be, concerns over censorship in Macau still exist. This has been most apparent in academic circles, where scholars have been punished for speaking up on a sensitive issue.
But what does this mean for travelers to Macau or people who are planning to move there as expats? Is the internet censored in Macau and do you need a VPN?
Is the Internet Censored in Macau?
See below for a more detailed explanation, where we’re going to discuss how internet operates in Macau and, more importantly, China’s relationship with Macau.
This starts with one key concept: “One Government, Two Systems”.
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Macau | One Country, Two Systems
The foundation of Macau’s handover from Portugal to China in 1999 was the promise China made to allow Macau to continue as a semi-autonomous region.
This was eventually dubbed “One country, two systems”.
This is the same system that is in place for Hong Kong.
Despite Macau’s relatively small size in relationship to China, it has still been granted status as a “Special Administrative Region” that can self-govern and operate somewhat autonomously.
Confidence in this system has eroded over the past few years, however.
A lot of this has to do with what is happening in neighboring Hong Kong. However, as mentioned earlier, there have been cases of censorship in Macau as well.
The question remains, though: as Macau’s freedom slowly erodes and China gradually asserts its control, how will this affect the internet?
Internet Censorship in Macau
While Macau technically has an open internet, it is surrounded on all sides by censorship. The moment you leave Macau and enter China “proper”, the famous Great Firewall of China kicks in.
Fortunately, at least for the time being, the censorship hasn’t spilled over too much into Macau. You can still access Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and all of the other websites that are completely inaccessible in China.
That being said, it’s reasonable to expect that this won’t always be the case. History has shown that China has not eased censorship. On the contrary, they’ve repeatedly doubled down on their control of the internet and will likely do the same in Macau.
But the truth is, it’s not just censorship that you need to worry about in places like Macau.
Forget Censorship; Consider Big Brother China
The lack of internet censorship in Macau is deceiving.
Make no mistake – China controls Macau.
They have granted the right of autonomy to the region, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t keeping a close watch on what’s happening in Macau.
The internet in Macau might not be censored, but it is closely monitored.
As a traveler or an expat in Macau, this means one thing:
Whatever you do on the internet, do it with the knowledge that China is watching and recording it.
For some people, this is completely acceptable. For me, it’s not. It’s not that I have something to hide. Rather, I don’t want to give what I don’t have to.
For this reason, I use what is known as a Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short. By connecting to an ExpressVPN server outside of Macau or China and encrypting my connection for security, I can access my email, banking and even just Google without the fear that “Big Brother” China is watching over my shoulder.
There are a number of great VPNs for China that I’ve used, and pretty much any of them will do the job. In my experience, however, I’ve had the most reliable service from ExpressVPN.
Final Thoughts | Internet in Macau
Macau and the concept of China’s “Special Administrative Region” is changing rapidly. What was true yesterday might not be true tomorrow.
Currently, Macau’s internet is open and free. However, there’s a good chance that China will step in and change things in the next year or two, especially if Hong Kong’s protests continue. Either way, you need to be aware that the moment you step into Macau, you have given up your digital rights to privacy. Whatever you do is being monitored.
Your only options are to shrug your shoulders and say “whatever”…or you can try to encrypt your internet traffic with a VPN like ExpressVPN. It’s what big corporations use to protect trade secrets and thankfully it’s available to us as consumers as well.
Do you feel comfortable giving up your right to digital privacy as you travel abroad? Leave a comment below to let me know.