Legal system of Macau

Legal system of Macau

Macau law is broadly based on Portuguese law, and therefore part of the civil law tradition of continental European legal systems. Portuguese law is itself highly influenced by German law. However, many other influences are present, including Chinese law, Italian law, and some narrow aspects of common law.

Constitutional law

The apex of the legal system is the Basic Law of the Macau SAR, a Chinese law approved in accordance with and due to the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration on the Question of Macau (an international treaty that is officially deposited at the UN) and with article 31 of the Constitution of the PRC. Within Macau, the Basic Law has constitutional rank. The Basic Law of Macau is modelled upon the Basic Law of Hong Kong, although it is not totally equal, as it namely is influenced by the Portuguese Constitution in some points as, for example, in some norms concerning fundamental rights. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights applies in Macau.

The transfer of power

The legal system of Macau was not substantially modified in 1999, as a result of the transfer of power from Portugal to the PRC, given that there is a principle of continuity of the pre-existing legal system, according to which all sources in force prior to the transfer of sovereignty continued to apply, with some minor exceptions that were specified in December 1999.

Judicial system

The courts of the Macau SAR are structured in three levels and have final power of adjudication, except in very narrow areas. The Court of Final Appeal has three judges, and the Court of Second Instance has five judges. Trial by jury is foreseen in the law, but is not used.

Macau as a civil law legal system

Macau is typically a civil law legal system, in that legislation is the main source of law and case law, while clearly relevant, is not a major source of law. Macau has the five 'classic' codifications: the Civil Code, the Commercial Code, the Civil Procedure Code, the Penal Code, the Criminal procedure Code. In addition, there are a number of other smaller codifications (e.g., in the field of administrative law).

Private law

Private law in Macau is basically codified in two separate codes: the 1999 Civil Code and the 1999 Commercial code. A number of other pieces of legislation, such as the law on standard contract terms, are also of importance. The Commercial Code has been translated into English and is freely available in the website of the Macau Official Printing House (see link below). For a partial translation of the Civil Code, see the bibliography below.

Legal education

The Faculty of Law of the University of Macau was created in the late 1980s and currently offers law degrees and master programmes conducted in Chinese and Portuguese languages. It also offers two master and postgraduate programmes in English, one in EU, international and comparative law, and the other in international business law. In addition, it offers PhD programs in law.

Gaming law

Macau gaming law is discussed in a separate entry.


Jorge Godinho, Macau Business Law and Legal System, LexisNexis, Hong Kong, 2007 [] . This book includes a partial English translation of the Macau Civil Code 1999.

ee also

*Legal systems of the world
*Civil law (legal system)
*Civil code
*Commercial code
*Immigration to Macau

External links

* Macau Law Directory (Government Printing Bureau)
** zh icon [ Traditional Chinese version]
** pt icon [ Portuguese version]
** en icon [ English version]

* Macau Law web pages
** zh icon pt icon [ Macau Courts]
** en icon [ Faculty of Law, University of Macau]
** en icon [ Personal page of Prof. Jorge Godinho, University of Macau]
** en icon [ Links to sites of legal interest]
** en icon [ Macau law and legal system, a paper available on Social Science Research Network]

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