My Take

Time to get real over hostage crisis

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 2:12am

We have seen our journalists and chief executive chasing Benigno Aquino all over the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit this week, looking for an apology. The hacks got kicked out; our chief and his sidekicks were upended in a meeting with the Philippine president. The Philippine media had a field day with the meeting while Leung Chun-ying thought he was bound by a gag rule and kept mum. It's all very embarrassing. By the way, did Leung do anything else at Apec besides chasing Aquino's coattails?

My heart goes out to the victims of the hostage crisis and their families. I can't pretend to know what it's like to lose those dearest to you. But we can't expect the same level of safety and accountability in a developing country. Hong Kong people need to be more realistic.

Just now, two People Power legislators said Leung had humiliated Hong Kong by failing to demand an official apology from Aquino and would table a private member's bill to ban Filipinos from working in our city. Can we be more chauvinistic? Three years after the killings, it's time to get over our self-righteous indignation and face reality.

Hong Kong people see Aquino primarily through the tainted lens of the hostage crisis and the importation of foreign maids; most have no idea about his politics and phenomenal popularity at home - near 70 per cent after three years in power - so they haven't a clue how to deal with him and his government. Aquino is not beholden to Hong Kong, which has little leverage. Part of Aquino's domestic appeal has been his willingness to take a nationalistic hard line with China over their sea disputes, so going to Beijing to pressure Aquino won't work either.

Suppose a gunman took hostage a group of Filipino maids in Central. The police botched a rescue attempt, resulting in heavy casualties. President Xi Jinping personally expressed regret over the incident but the Philippines demanded Xi must apologise formally and offer compensation. Here, substitute Xi for Aquino.

This is not to say the victims' families have no case; Manila did mishandle the crisis and caused wrongful deaths. But they need an international law firm with a track record, not lawyers and lawmakers with no experience in such cases.