My Take

Show solidarity, not indifference, in face of Philippine typhoon disaster

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 3:29am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 3:29am

What is wrong with our leaders in Hong Kong and Beijing? If there is ever a time when realpolitik, cold diplomacy and humanitarianism converge, it is now.

Large swathes of the Philippines have been devastated by one of the worst storms on record. The country needs help - and fast. But while other countries are rushing in aid and personnel, Hong Kong is threatening economic sanctions over the hostage killings three years ago.

Can we pause for a moment to think about how that looks to the rest of the world? When asked about it yesterday, Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government has no plan to extend the one-month ultimatum before imposing sanctions. So the last person in the administration who is reputed to have common sense has lost her head too.

Lam and her boss, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, should come out now and declare the ultimatum has been cancelled. No sanctions will be considered, not now, not ever. That is not only the right thing to do; it is the only thing to do. They should then rush the HK$40 million in disaster relief funding through the Legislative Council for approval tomorrow and work with NGOs to bring the money and aid to the Philippines as quickly as possible.

Why? Because 160,000 of our expatriate residents are Filipinos; we should show solidarity, not indifference. We should show the world we are not all racist chauvinists like the pan-democrat People Power's Albert Chan Wai-yip, who spearheaded the sanctions initiative in Legco.

Where is Beijing in all this? Americans are dispatching an aircraft carrier and four battleships to help with relief efforts. Britain has sent a warship. Japan is sending troops. Together, they have pledged at least US$30 million, though the UN estimates the Philippines will need about US$301 million. Beijing has reportedly promised US$100,000.

Presumably that's only a preliminary sum, because if it is not, you might as well not bother. I know the party bosses have been preoccupied by the all-important third plenum to introduce reform. But that's no excuse.

At current growth rates, the Philippines will not stay poor forever. When it becomes the new tiger economy, you want to make friends, not foes.