China to PH: Don’t forget HK hostages

Paterno Esmaquel II
(UPDATED) China backs the survivors' demands after President Benigno Aquino III refuses to apologize over the 2010 hostage crisis in Manila

STILL WAITING. In this 2011 file photo, relatives of the 8 dead Hong Kong nationals attend a ceremony at the Quirino grandstand, the site of the hostage-taking tragedy. File photo by EPA/Dennis M Sabangan

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – China challenged the Philippines to address the demands of Hong Kong nationals hostaged in Manila in 2010, after President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, October 7, said he refused to apologize over the hostage crisis.

“We urge the Philippine government to pay high attention to the requirements and concerns of the families of the victims, take concrete and effective measures, and work out a proper solution as soon as possible,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement Monday.

Hua added: “We support the Hong Kong SAR government in staying in close communication and coordination with the Philippine government on this issue. The Chinese side has conveyed to the Philippine side the above position through the diplomatic channel.”

Eight Hong Kong nationals died in the hostage crisis staged by a disgruntled Manila policeman in 2010. Victims and their families have demanded an official apology as well as compensation from the Philippine government.

Hong Kong is China’s special administrative region (SAR) under a “one country, two systems” approach.

China’s statement comes as it is embroiled in a maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

Aquino: ‘Not our culture’

Despite China’s request, Aquino on Monday said he refused to apologize to Hong Kong because of cultural differences.

He met with Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Indonesia. The Philippine president said it was Leung who requested the meeting.

In an interview with reporters, Aquino explained that in Philippine culture, an official apology means the Philippines is “at fault as a country, as a government, and as a people…. And we pointed out that from our perspective, there is one lone gunman responsible for this tragedy.”

Leung, for his part, mentioned a case when an official “apologized to the community even though he was not directly responsible.”

STRAINED RELATIONS. Hong Kong and Philippine relations turned sour after the tragedy. Eight Hong Kong nationals died during the August 23, 2010 hostage-taking incident. File photo by EPA/Dennis M. Sabangan

“I told him, that’s your culture, you practice those. That’s your system, but in our system…we cannot admit wrongdoing if it was not ours,” Aquino said.

“But we do extend our sincerest condolences,” the Philippine leader added. “Again, we expressed our deepest regret that it’s so contrary to how we treat visitors in our country.”

Responding to a journalist’s question, Aquino said Leung “more or less” accepted the Philippines’ “deepest regret.”

“I think he mentioned something like, we recognize that in your culture, personal fault is what you apologize for…. I guess that’s the closest comment that he actually delivered in relation to your question.”  

Leung, however, gave a less positive assessment of the talks.

“The Philippine side, at the beginning, took the position that the matter has been resolved. I did not agree,” he told Hong Kong reporters in Bali.

“I believe, and I made the case to the Philippine side, that this matter, unless it is resolved properly, will continue to stand in the way in the normal relationships between Hong Kong and the Philippines.”

No official apology

In Hong Kong, the hostage crisis has fueled emotions against the Philippines.

On Monday, for instance, several Hong Kong journalists aggressively questioned Aquino about the incident. The journalists, as a result, lost their credentials to cover the APEC Summit. 

Footage from Now TV showed them shouting, “So you’re ignoring the Hong Kong people, right?” and, “Have you met CY Leung,” as they tried to extend their microphones over Aquino’s entourage.

In August, two hostage-taking survivors and the mother of a slain tour guide sued the Philippines before a Hong Kong court over the hostage-taking incident. The court, however, junked their compensation claims “on the grounds of sovereign immunity.”

That month, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada told the South China Morning Post: “On behalf of the people of Manila, as the mayor, I want to say we are sorry for the incident, for what happened to the victims.” Estrada, however, later said he “did not apologize to anybody.” (Watch Rappler’s video report below.)


Documents obtained by Rappler showed that Alfredo Lim, Estrada’s immediate predecessor as Manila mayor, was found “administratively liable for simple neglect of duty” over the hostage crisis. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.