For Hong Kong, tragedy in Manila needs resolution

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 3:01am

Three years ago today, Hong Kong watched in horror as a hostage-taking in Manila turned into a blood-soaked tragedy. Seven tourists and their guide were killed when a Philippine police team failed to rescue the tour group from an emotional gunman on board their bus. The televised images may be fading from our memories, but for the survivors and the victims' families, the wounds may never heal, at least not until the search for solace and justice is met with action.

The hostages and their families were justified in feeling outraged by the botched rescue operation and the lack of punishment for the officials involved. They were further distressed when they saw Taipei swiftly push Manila for an apology over the fatal shooting of a fisherman by the Philippine coastguard. Until now, no formal apology or compensation has been given for the bus tragedy and the latest response from Manila remains disappointing. The promise by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to fight for justice is welcome news. Leung has been in office for just a year. The government has already contacted the Philippine consulate 23 times on the issue since 2012. But this has obviously not been effective.

Hong Kong is not known for its diplomatic muscle. The government is further put to shame by Taiwan's stronger stance in the shooting dispute with Manila. This is not to suggest we should mount pressure by threatening economic retaliation. Admittedly, the bus hostage and the fisherman incident are not identical, and Taiwan's relations with Manila are also different. But, as the past three years have shown, more is needed to resolve the issue. If Leung is sincere in wanting to help the victims, a better strategy is required.

Ultimately, the issue is that Chinese nationals have been unfairly treated overseas. If the political tussle is too much for the city to handle, turning to Beijing is an option. Hong Kong and the Philippines share common interests and it is in the interests of both sides to move on. It will help lay the case to rest when the demands for apology and compensation are met.