Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

At last: Macau’s legal system in a universal language

Posted by Kimberly on June 28, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
June 28, 2007, page 4 (1,287 words)

Written information about Macau’s legal system and business law have been compiled in English for the first time by Jorge Godinho, a Professor at the University of Macau.
Titled ‘Macau Business Law and Legal System’, the text brings together the law in Macau in relation to business activities, covering fundamental concepts.
An explanation of of civil law legal systems is given as well as a provision of Macau’s constitutional framework.
It has been a long process for Mr Godinho, who has spent the past two years updating and extending considerably many of the areas he covers.
“This is essentially a product of teaching at the university of Macau although at first it also draws upon other professional experiences such as my years as a full time staff at the Macau Monetary Authority as a financial supervisor and also practising as a lawyer,” he said.
“I’ve been working on it a lot in the last year and a half but this was circulating previously among the students in shorter versions,” he said.
His plan is to use the text as a basis and continue updating it every two or so years.
“My mission is to have this book as a standard reference of Macau Law in English,” he said.
Having begin teaching at the University of Macau on a part-time basis in 1993, Mr Godinho found it difficult to obtain material available in English.
“There were no materials available in Chinese for that matter at the time so it’s the basic obligation of an academic to provide a basis for the students to work on,” he said.
He sees his work as a contribution because it breaks language barriers.
“Everybody can read English. Not everybody can read Portuguese, not everybody can read Chinese. I think that it fills a very clear gap that was out there and there was direct need. I knew it for years,” he said.
The vast majority of the bibliography is from Portuguese texts with original research incorporated.
“I know what questions people are asking. I know some specific points are asked frequently,” he said.
He gave examples like penalty clauses and issues of applicable law.
“Can a Macau contract be regulated, for example, by the law of Hong Kong if possible at all?
“This is a book that tries to address practitioners needs, in the sense that I am always keeping my radar very open to what exactly is the concern and I address those issues,” he said.
With the legal system in Macau having undergone major transformations, particularly in relation to the handover and the modernisation of the laws, Mr Godinho said residents are still learning.
“We are still in the phase of digesting what is out there in the new code and there is not a lot of information available on some points of law, for example insurance contracts.
This is the first publication that gives an extended account of matters covered in the 1999 Civil and Commercial Codes.
He admits the price of the book, currently set at KHD1,200 may be out of reach for many.
“It’s slightly over the budget for most people, including myself.
“I don’t know how they [publisher Lexus Nexus] studied the market but they obviously have and they decided it was a risk worth taking,” he said.
The text is not yet available in Macau due to difficulties in getting local bookshops to hold it, although the Portuguese Bookshop has expressed interest and is getting in touch with the publisher.
“For the time being people can only order it directly from the publisher or in some Hong Kong bookshops that Lexus Nexus distributes via,” said Mr Godinho.
With this text now in circulation, Mr Godinho, who teaches gaming law at the University of Macau, is in the early stages of a new book on Macau’s gaming law and expects it to be released in about a year.

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