Columnist makes formal apology

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 April, 2009, 12:00am

Writer Chip Tsao met Philippine consular officials and about 70 union and media representatives last night to make a face-to-face apology for a magazine column that led him to be banned from the Philippines amid allegations of racism.

He said after the meeting that he hoped his 'formal apology' could 'bring this matter to a close', adding: 'It was not my intention to upset or insult the Philippine people and their nation.'

It came after an earlier apology, in which Tsao described the row over what he termed his 'satirical' column as a misunderstanding, was rejected by the Filipino community.

A visiting academic said the Philippine government had used the issue to reinforce its claims to the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, which featured in the column.

Philippine Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan, who said on Tuesday that the entry ban would be lifted if Tsao offered a public apology, could not be reached for comment. On Monday he said Tsao had been banned from the country for 'arrogance and disrespect' over his article, 'The War at Home', published on March 27 in the writer's 'Politically Incorrect' column in HK Magazine.

Describing the Philippines as 'nation of servants', which should not challenge a nation as powerful as China, he wrote that 'a patriotic Chinese man' would summon his Filipino maid and tell her she had 'better tell any one of her compatriots in Statue Square on Sunday that the entirety of the Spratly Islands belongs to China'. He said later it was intended to satirise Hong Kong employers' poor treatment of their maids.

A professor from Beijing's China University of Political Science And Law, Ong Yew-kim, said the Philippine government's ban on Tsao blew the incident out of proportion. 'It is the theme of the article - that the sovereignty of the Spratly Islands belongs to China - that provoked the Filipino government,' he said.

Kira Azucena, Acting Consul General of the Philippines in Hong Kong, welcomed Mr Tsao's public apology yesterday and said she hoped it would 'address the hurt of our Philippine communities'.

A spokeswoman for the Equal Opportunities Commission said it had looked into Tsao's article and found it contained derogatory remarks that were 'inappropriate in the racial harmony aspect'.

Eman Villanueva, secretary general of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said Tsao's apology was not a sincere one and the group's members would not accept it.

'He still insists it is merely a misunderstanding,' Mr Villanueva said. 'We do not think so. We can differentiate political satire from racial slur. We do not buy his argument.'

He said he had not heard last night whether the ban on Tsao had been lifted.

The association will file a complaint to Equal Opportunity Commission and Hong Kong Press Council, and will hold a rally from Chater Road to government headquarters in Central on Sunday afternoon.