HK to PH: Take ‘concrete steps’ or face sanctions

Agence France-Presse
(UPDATED) Without going into specifics, Hong Kong's Leung warns of "sanctions," as lawmakers mull the cancellation of visa-free travel for visitors from PH

APOLOGY OR FACE SANCTIONS. In this file photo, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying arrives to attend the Leaders Retreat during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bali, Indonesia, 07 October 2013. EPA/Dita Alangkara/Pool

HONG KONG (UPDATED) – Hong Kong’s leader threatened sanctions against the Philippines on Tuesday, November 5, over a row involving the deaths of its tourists in a 2010 hostage crisis in Manila.

The southern Chinese city is demanding a formal apology for the incident, which saw 8 of its citizens killed and 7 others wounded after negotiations broke down between Philippine authorities and a former police officer who hijacked a tour bus.

“Unless, within a month, there are concrete steps taken to resolve this issue, the government will take necessary actions to apply sanctions,” chief executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters Tuesday morning, without going into specifics.

“I urge the Philippines government and/or the Manila municipal government to quickly come up with a proposal to respond to the families of the deceased and the requests of the injured,” Leung added.

The apparent incompetence of the police outraged the residents of Hong Kong, a city accustomed to low crime rates, and saw relations with the Southeast Asian country nosedive.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, on the other hand, gave a brief reaction to Leung’s statement. “We are working quietly to achieve a result that is mutually satisfactory,” Del Rosario told reporters on Tuesday.

Hong Kong has maintained a travel warning to the country since the episode, while the city’s lawmakers have mooted a cancellation of its visa-free arrangement for visitors from the Philippines as well as possible trade sanctions.

More than 160,000 Philippine nationals reside in Hong Kong, with most working as domestic helpers. Bilateral trade between the two totalled some $8.2 billion in 2012.

In October, Manila mayor Joseph Estrada offered to apologize for the hostage-taking incident.

But Philippine President Benigno Aquino has refused to make an apology on behalf of the country, insisting the deaths were primarily caused by the actions of the hostage taker.

On Tuesday, said Philippine Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma reiterated the national government’s stand on the issue, adding that Leung understood why an apology was not going to be given. 

Mahusay naman po iyong kanilang pakikipag-usap sa isa’t isa at ang sinabi sa Pangulo ay nauunawaan naman ang ating posisyon hinggil diyan,” Coloma said of Aquino and Leung’s brief meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Indonesia. 

(Their meeting went well. Leung told Aquino he understands the Philippines’ position on the issue.)  

Manila has offered compensation of US$75,000 to each family of the deceased and up to US$150,000 to those injured, media reports said.

But the families involved in the hostage crisis have not accepted the money, saying the amount was too low. -With reports from Rappler.com