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Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Friday refuted a Philippine government statement that Hong Kong and the Philippines had put the bus tragedy row behind them, saying his words at a meeting he had with Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Monday in Bali had been “taken out of context”.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Leung said he had suggested to Aquino at the meeting that issues surrounding the hostage tragedy – in which eight Hong Kong people were killed – could be put behind them only if both sides held talks and took steps to resolve them.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying
"It was not like my meeting with him was to talk about how to put the issue behind us. This is absolutely not the case,” he said.
Leung said that at the meeting Aquino had agreed to his proposal that both sides would send a senior official to discuss unresolved matters related to the hostage tragedy.
Before the press conference on Friday Leung met with a survivor of the tragedy, Yik Siu-ling, whose lower jaw was shattered by a bullet, and representatives of the families of victims of the tragedy who had demanded clarification on the statements made by the Philippines about Leung's meeting with Aquino.
At the meeting Leung denied that he and Aquino had agreed to put the issues of the tragedy behind them. After the meeting, those who met with Leung said they were satisfied with his explanation.
Leung statement's on Friday came after Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Thursday China's recent request for the Philippines to resolve the row over the Manila bus hostage tragedy “came too late” as Leung had “agreed to put the issue behind them”.
The strong stance from Aquino’s office, reported on Thursday morning, was a response to the Chinese foreign ministry’s statement on Tuesday that the Philippines should take “substantial action” to address problems with Hong Kong related to the hostage tragedy.
The Foreign Ministry statement also came hours before the China News Service revealed that in a brief conversation during the East Asia Summit on Wednesday China's Premier Li Keqiang had urged the Philippines to resolve the row as soon as possible because it had dragged on for a long time and affected the feelings of the people of China and Hong Kong. He said he hoped the Philippine government would resolve the incident “reasonably and fairly”.
Lacierda, was quoted in the Philippine newspaper Manila Standard Today on Thursday as saying that when China made the appeal, Aquino and Leung had already met and both had agreed to put the issue behind them.
“[China is] too late. The Hong Kong chief executive and the President had already met in Bali [Indonesia],” said Lacierda, referring to the meeting between Aquino and Leung during the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) leaders’ meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
In contrast to Leung’s earlier revelation that Manila agreed on holding ministerial-level meetings with Hong Kong, MST on Wednesday reported Leung as saying that “a dialogue with the survivors and the families [of the victims] could be at the level of the Philippine consul-general in Hong Kong”, with Aquino only afterwards suggesting that his administration might "perhaps go further than that” and send someone at ministerial level, such as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to lead it.
The seven Hong Kong tourists and their tour guide were shot dead after being taken hostage by a sacked policeman onboard their coach in August 2010. The gunman was killed when a police assault team broke into the bus to end the hostage drama.
Families of the victims and survivors of the tragedy have been demanding that Manila apologise and compensate them for the Philippine authorities’ bungled rescue effort. They earlier sought to sue the Philippine government in a Hong Kong court but the court dismissed their case.