• Thu
  • Oct 2, 2014
  • Updated: 7:47pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Calls to 'punish Manila' smack of revenge, not justice

Jim Rice says cynical politicians are inciting hatred over hostage tragedy

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 6:37pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 9:10pm

While it is heartening to see the rest of the world responding positively to the latest natural disaster to affect the people of the Philippines, here in Hong Kong, key pan-democratic politicians as well as the administration itself have reached for new moral lows.

Masquerading under "democratic principles", lawmakers have been engaged in a myopic and obsessive bid to extract an apology from the Philippines more than three years after a lone gunman killed eight Hong Kong tourists following a botched rescue attempt in Manila.

To these individuals, I would only ask: have you no human decency at all?

While they employ the language of justice, we should look more closely at their real motives, while considering the distinction between justice and revenge.

The families of the victims and survivors of the tragedy are seeking compensation and a "sincere" apology from the president of the Philippines, among other things. This has come to a head following lawmakers' inflammatory statements, inciting hatred against one of the two largest ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong, while threatening punitive measures against Filipinos here, lifting the visa-free status for Philippine tourists and imposing unilateral economic sanctions.

All this is being done at a time when Filipinos are struggling to cope with a severe natural disaster. To these individuals, I would only ask: have you no human decency at all?

Regrettably, it would seem that appeals to hatred and demonising the "other" are an effective political strategy in Hong Kong.

Let's look beyond the rhetoric. First, the Philippine administration has already expressed its condolences and regret over the incident. Second, there has been an official inquiry and report made to the Philippine justice secretary.

Third, the criminal actions perpetrated by a rogue individual cannot be imputed to the government (not to mention the people). Fourth, the resolution of any such dispute should be on a state-to-state basis, between Manila and Beijing. Fifth, at this point it is clear that control of the issue seems to be in the hands of the victims and their families, led by the populist legislators (and not the Hong Kong government per se). It would be pointless for the Philippines to try to appease such a group.

None of the main players - legislator James To Kun-sun, Albert Chan Wai-yip, Regina Ip Lau-Suk-yee, et al - actually represents the state. Rather, this is merely a collection of individuals who, as part of their dual agenda of scoring points against the Leung government and appealing to popular racist sentiments, are directing their crusade against the president and the people of the Philippines and even Philippine nationals living here. They do not represent or act in the name of Hong Kong, let alone China.

Furthermore, it would appear that the manner in which the chief executive expects the issue to be resolved will depend not on a definitive legal standard, but on the condition of the victims and families being emotionally satisfied.

The political personalities involved are not engaged in a process of seeking justice, but rather, are bent on extracting revenge. Revenge is based on arbitrariness; on personal sentiment and extra legal steps to redress perceived wrongs. Justice, by contrast, is based on settled law and principle.

Also, the victims seek a "suitable punishment" for all those they deem responsible. This is not realistic, but, rather, an attempt to humiliate the political independence of a sovereign state.

The actions by the pan-democrats have cost them many of their best friends. But, far worse, by using race and ethnicity as a means of gaining popular support, they have lost their moral standing in the community.

Jim Rice is assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, Lingnan University


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

@phchin - Pure hot headed emotions and not a single ounce of logic. I pity the future of HK if people think increasingly like phchin.
Willie Chow, you need to get your facts straight because your lack of clear thinking is frustrating and asinine.
The HK victims were killed by a botched rescue attempt performed by a local (Manila) police force. Compensation and apologies are due but not by the President of the Philippines.
That's akin to asking President Hu Jintao to apologise should HK's police force negligently kill a tourist in HK or asking President Obama to apologise for the failings of the US's local police forces.
A nuanced and logical approach to this issue is required, not muddled thinking.
It was fun for a while to see CY etc.. attack Philippines when it was just politics and something to read about. However with the Super Storm it is time to get real. 2,500+ people are dead and 800,000 homeless. We should put our little petty games / comments aside and donate to help those in Philippines in need. If you asked me last week if I would be donating this week I would have laughed. But just 20 minutes ago I donated $500 as it is time to get serious now!! We are all people and if I was in real need I would hope someone came to my rescue.
So lets band together and help those who really need our help today to eat and get fresh water. If we all give $500 we can fix this and show Philippines what HK people are really like.
Another HK 流口水博士 with dubious facts. Don't take me wrong. I am against Hong Kong morons seeking revenge as much as anyone.
If you look at how often deranged HKers demonstrate at the drop of a hat, what we really need is a ton of anger management professionals.
The academic is right about one thing though. The pan democrats have no sense of decency because all they think about is getting the moron votes.
Wiliechow, agree that the demands were made before the disaster, and to cy & the grandstanding politicians, they have keep quiet this week, out of respect.
However, to say the govt killed the tourist is plain stupidity. It was a lone gunman, a criminal event.
During a taxi ride yesterday evening, a local call-in show was playing on the radio. I was quite sad to hear the comments of callers. Quote one caller saying that if individuals feel that they should donate to victims, then they should, however he 'personally' will not make any donations at all. If these callers represent the general Hong Kong people, then something is very wrong with our society.
The way we treat this issue is the same way we treat our maids. we DEMAND an apology bec we are superior than them. They should kiss our **** and lick it clean to save their jobs.
The only way for this HK attitude to cease is to have the PI become rich so that HK can treat it as an equal partner. Which will never happen in our lifetime. Its like expecting your maid to suddenly become your colleague.
Let's face some facts: Aquino is a moron who was elected because people pitied his family's suffering. He lacks even the most basic qualities to be a world leader. Remember when he stood grinning at the murder scene? That was the moment when grief turned to outrage for many HK people, I reckon. So is it really unfair to single him out? Perhaps the backlash will encourage Filipinos to elect leaders who are marginally less embarrassing in the future. A good thing.
Haiyan has exposed another aspect of Aquino's incompetence, as China is also not coming to the aid of the Philippines. Why? Because Aquino have been ratcheting the rhetoric in a land grab over some inconsequential islands. Try looking after the land you're already supposed to be administering!
Filipinos should do themselves a favour and exercise their power at the ballot box.
The most disappointing person in this has to be Fernando Cheung - vice-chair of the Labour Party, former Legco member representing the Social Welfare Constituency and former Lecturer at PolyU in Social Work - for insisting that the government continue to press for an apology and compensation or impose sanctions. Where is his compassion? I hope his previous students at PolyU learned to ignore what he has to say.
What "learned" professor!




SCMP.com Account