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  • Oct 23, 2014
  • Updated: 6:02am
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

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This article is now closed to comments

williechow
As the saying goes: "You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own set of facts."
It is not an lone gunman who killed the eight Hong Kong tourists. It is the government "rescue attempt" which killed the eight tourists.
Where are the facts which Rice based his silly opinion: "masquerading under democratic principles, lawmakers' inflammatory statements, inciting hatred"
Rice wrote that the Hong Kong demands are being done at a time when Filipinos are struggling to cope with a severe natural disaster. The demands were made way before last week's natural disaster and C.Y. Leung has made it clear that he would extend the one month deadline for progress in the negotiation. Rice is simply being dishonest to imply the demands were made after the natural disaster. I would only ask: have you no shame at all?
chanaa
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.
yushyuen
I agree with much of what is said in the article, although have reservations about the Rawlsian concept of justice. Imagine if there was a society with laws which say, does absolutely nothing about killings. How does one seek redress under those laws? There must be something more and deeper about the notion of justice. It is however, nothing like the farce that politicians and media have made it out to be. I agree with Alisdair McIntyre when he said that a society pursuing only external goods will be competitive, and lacking in any other aspect of character.
allan94
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.
phchin
I am amazed that such accusation towards the victims of the tragedy and those who seek to help can be out of one who is supposed to be an honourable academic. Even worse, entangling the natural disaster of a nation into the failed responsibility of its government is a low tactic by a learned professor of our university to demonise honourable people of this City who rightfully demand justice. Nobody has targeted any minority group in Hong Kong in this quest for justice and it is not right for an honourable Hong Kong citizen as Mr. Rice to drag in the honourable minority citizens of Hong Kong who are have truthfully unrelated in the disaster.
Raymond Chin
howyadoin
@phchin - Pure hot headed emotions and not a single ounce of logic. I pity the future of HK if people think increasingly like phchin.
williechow
What "learned" professor!

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