My Take

Time to quietly shelve the ultimatum over the Manila hostage crisis

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 4:43am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2013, 4:43am

The one-month ultimatum is up. So what's the government of Leung Chun-ying going to do about the Philippines? Will he impose economic sanctions, such as ending visa-free privileges for Philippine visitors, or even bar their nationals from working in our city? Asked about it yesterday, the chief executive would only say that both sides were still negotiating. I take it that means the ultimatum has been quietly shelved. And well it should be.

The fact that their officials were willing to talk when their country has been hit by one of the worst typhoons on record, which killed at least 5,680 people, rather demonstrated their sincerity. And it rather put us in a terrible light.

That families of the victims in the Manila hostage crisis would make such demands are entirely understandable. Some pan-democratic lawmakers and politicians have been more than willing to fan our community resentment and bias against the country and its people. It's shameful but predictable. But it has been terribly unwise to allow their demands to ensnare our entire community in their dispute, however much sympathy we feel for the families and the victims. By jumping on the "hate Philippines" bandwagon, Leung has shown a complete and woeful lack of leadership. People complain he doesn't listen to public opinion. I am afraid that in this case, he listened too much.

When the scale of the typhoon destruction and suffering became obvious for the world to see, our government should have openly dropped the ultimatum and expressed solidarity with some 180,000 Philippine nationals living and working among us.

The only saving grace in this sorry episode has been the government's rush to inject HK$40 million into the disaster relief fund through the Legislative Council, enabling emergency relief organisations and other NGOs to apply for fund to carry out operations in the Philippines. Let the record show that non-affiliated pan-democrat Wong Yuk-man voted against the fund injection. That was a mean-spirited vote if ever there was one.

With the relief funding, we did rather better than Beijing, which initially offered just US$100,000 in emergency aid, raised to US$1.6 million only after an outbreak of international mockery.