Hong Kong Lifts Philippine Sanctions Over Hostage Crisis

Hong Kong lifted sanctions against the Philippines after the two governments agreed to resolve a diplomatic dispute over the handling of a hostage crisis in Manila in 2010 that killed eight tourists.

Philippines expressed its “most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy” for the pain and suffering of the victims and families of the incident in August 2010, according to a joint statement yesterday issued after a meeting between Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Philippine Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.

“The resolution of the incident enables the normalization of the bilateral relations between Hong Kong and the Philippines,” Leung said in a briefing in Hong Kong. “I sincerely hope that the deceased may rest in peace and the injured and the families can move on with courage and strength.”

The semi-autonomous Chinese city has been locked in a dispute with the Philippines over the hostage standoff that left eight Hong Kong residents dead after a former police officer hijacked a tourist bus. The Hong Kong government accused the Philippines of botching the rescue operation and had demanded an official apology, compensation and that officials be held accountable.

Sanctions Lifted

Hong Kong immediately resumed visa-free access for some Philippine diplomats and officials, lifting sanctions announced in January when talks on settling the issue broke down. The city also lowered the travel warning against the Philippines imposed after the hostage incident.

“I think what took us through many of these difficulties was the fact that we were able to convince the Hong Kong government of our sincerity to work for a win-win solution,” Almendras said in a briefing in the Chinese city.

China supported Hong Kong’s position on the incident, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in January after Hong Kong announced the sanctions. The Philippine government had previously expressed regret over the incident, while rejecting demands for an apology.

“The Philippines looks forward to working with the Hong Kong government in turning a new page in bilateral relations,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. President Benigno Aquino “expressed satisfaction that final closure and a mutually satisfactory conclusion has been reached,” his spokesman Sonny Coloma said separately.

Hong Kong is the 10th largest travel market for the Philippines, according to government data as of February. Former Philippine president and now mayor of Manila City Joseph Estrada flew to Hong Kong on April 22 to help settle the issue.

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