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Chinese casino hub Macao's elite choose new leader

In this photo released by the Macao Government Office, newly elected Macao Chief Executive Ho lat-seng speaks after the election in Macao, on Aug. 25, 2019. (Macao Government Office via AP)

MACAO (AP) -- An elite pro-Beijing panel on Sunday chose a new leader for the Chinese casino gambling hub Macao.

    Ho Iat-seng was picked to be the next chief executive of the former Portuguese colony in a selection process with no other candidates.

    Ho, a pro-establishment businessman and politician, will become the city's third leader since China took control of Macau in 1999 after more than four centuries of Portuguese rule.

    Ho will replace the city's current leader, Chui Sai-on, whose term expires in December.

    Macao and nearby Hong Kong are former European colonies that were handed back to Beijing, becoming Chinese special administrative regions that retain considerable control over their own affairs under a formula known as "one country, two systems."

    Residents of the two cities can elect some politicians but the top leader is handpicked by an elite committee.

    While Hong Kong has been gripped by two months of turbulent anti-government protests demanding full democracy, Ho's anointment went ahead with little controversy, highlighting Macau's much weaker opposition movement. Officials said the 62-year-old Ho garnered 392 votes from Macau's 400-member "election committee."

    He said he was confident that Hong Kong's protest movement, which began with calls to scrap an unpopular China extradition bill, would not last.

    "The protests against the extradition bill will end," Ho said at a press conference, adding that the demonstrations were taking a toll on the enclave's tourism industry.

    Macao, an hour by high-speed ferry from Hong Kong, is the world's biggest casino gambling market, raking in revenues dwarfing the Las Vegas Strip and fueled by high rolling mainland Chinese gamblers wagering at glitzy resorts run by companies including Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts.

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