Hong Kong Gives Philippines Deadline on Hostage-Victim Talks

Hong Kong will take action against the Philippines unless substantial progress is made within a month on compensation talks with victims of a deadly 2010 hostage crisis, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said.

Some progress has been made in the talks between the Chinese city and the Philippines, Leung said in a briefing today, without specifying what actions Hong Kong may take.

“We still have a long way to go,” Leung said. “I fully understand the disappointment among the victims and the families, which is shared by the community at large.”

Eight members of a Hong Kong tour group were killed in 2010 in Manila when a former police officer took them hostage on a bus and opened fire after hours of failed negotiations to release them. Some lawmakers in the former British colony are calling for measures including tightening employment permits for Filipinos, the second-biggest foreign ethnic group in the Chinese city.

The deadliest attack on foreign tourists in the Philippines, broadcast live on television, has remained a thorn in relations. The Hong Kong government has told citizens to avoid travel to the the Southeast Asian nation and expressed disappointment that officials weren’t more severely punished for mishandling a rescue attempt.

Leung and Philippine President Benigno Aquino agreed during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali last month to discuss the issue. Still, Aquino has refused to apologize, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported Oct 23.

Apology Wanted

“Whatever their action will be, we hope this will not affect our friendship,” Herminio Coloma, communications secretary of Aquino, told reporters in Manila today. “We hope that in the coming days, friendship and cooperation between the people of the Philippines and the people of Hong Kong will flourish.”

The Manila city government has sent a representative to Hong Kong to discuss compensation and an apology, with both sides unable to reach an agreement on the amount.

Hong Kong lawmakers will tomorrow debate a non-binding motion calling for sanctions against the Philippines, including the suspension of talks on air rights and trade, as well as cultural exchanges.

“I now announce the Hong Kong government will take necessary actions unless substantial progress is made within one month,” Leung said.

Filipinos made up about 1.9 percent of the population in Hong Kong, with most of them working as domestic helpers, according to the 2011 census.

The Philippines is looking forward to a speedy resolution of the issue, Xinhua reported yesterday, citing the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.

Former senior inspector Rolando Mendoza, armed with an M-16 assault rifle, had seized a bus load of tourists in August, 2010, and demanded his reinstatement after he was fired. He was shot in the head by a sniper, after an attempt to storm the bus failed.

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