Macau Business Law and Legal System

63 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2006

Date Written: February 2006


This book intends to bring together, in a concise manner, certain chosen areas of the legal system of Macau relating to business activities. The book focuses on a number of branches of private law: general theory of civil law, the law of obligations, property law, and certain areas of commercial law. It also includes a general introduction covering fundamental legal concepts, as understood in Macau in the tradition of civil law legal systems, and provides concise references to most branches of law, including Macau's constitutional framework. Other highly relevant areas relating to business matters such as tax law or labor law are not considered. The reader will not find an exhaustive coverage of the selected matters, as that would require a much larger volume, but rather an inquiry into their conceptual framework and regulation, hopefully providing a solid introduction and a satisfactory depth of coverage.

The order of the various chapters differs somewhat from traditional academic borders and standard literature. It was decided not to follow the order called for by the highly abstract and controversial concept of 'legal relation', adopted by the Civil Code to organize its general part, in the wake of the German Pandectist tradition. The general part has been 'disassembled' and therefore its topics are discussed under other headings: the law of obligations (all issues covered in Book I of the Civil Code under the 'legal transaction'), the law of persons (legal personality and capacity) and property law (the general regulation of things).

Additionally, the rigid separation between civil law as a whole as opposed to commercial law has not been observed. Namely, all special guarantees of obligations, regardless of their civil or commercial nature, are considered in the same chapter; this approach has for example the advantage of not separating the analysis of matters that have both civil and commercial regulation, such as the pledge. Further, all contracts are considered in sequence, regardless of the civil or commercial source of the regulation.

The overall result of these deviations from standard schemes is a very enlarged chapter on the law of obligations, covering not only matters regulated in parts of the Civil Code other than Book II, but also matters regulated in the Commercial Code, and representing nearly half of the book.

This book will be useful namely for those seeking information on the legal system of Macau who do not master any of the official languages, and especially Portuguese. The 'localization' of the legal system has eased the language barrier problem for those who master Chinese, but it remains true that most key doctrinal materials are written in Portuguese.

This is the first publication providing an extended account of the matters covered in the 1999 Civil and in the 1999 Commercial Code; as always happens after codification, there is a need to fully understand the breadth of newly introduced legal provisions. It also covers the legal transformations and continuities arising from the resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Macau by China on 20 December 1999. It is hoped that, despite its shortcomings, this publication will contribute to a better understanding of Macau's legal system. Although this book is by no means a work of comparative law, it was felt useful to provide references to English-language publications from other parts of the civil law tradition discussing the matters covered, so as to enable the interested English-speaking monoglot to pursue further research.

The law is stated as of 1 March 2006, thereby taking account of the more than six years of operation of the Macau Special Administrative Region, and namely the first amendment to the Commercial Code.

Keywords: Macau, Macao, business law, civil law legal systems, commercial law

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Godinho, Jorge A.F., Macau Business Law and Legal System (February 2006). Available at SSRN: or

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