Bus death sanctions backed

Professors float idea of Beijing, as well as Hong Kong, imposing penalties if Manila does not make position on hostage incident clear

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 October, 2013, 3:03am

It is time Beijing and Hong Kong considered economic sanctions against the Philippines, as it remains unclear if Manila is serious about resolving a 2010 hostage incident in which eight Hongkongers died, two academics said.

The idea was floated amid fresh worries over Manila's sincerity and the prospect of a resolution that could include compensation and a formal apology.

A Manila news report quoted a Philippine presidential spokesman as saying Beijing's request for Manila to resolve the row "came too late". Yesterday, he said the report was incorrect, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino was "firm, and shares the same belief with [Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying] that both parties should resolve" the issue.

Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, associate professor of international studies at Baptist University and a Civic Party lawmaker, said Manila was inclined to take a tough stance in the row, partly due to its South China Sea disputes with several nations, in particular with China. "The Hong Kong government also has a limited role, and [many] measures could affect the city's interest as well," Chan said. "So it is time for Beijing to [think] whether to play other cards, such as imposing different sanctions."

On Monday, Leung conveyed to Aquino "the requests of the victims and the bereaved families … including requests for a formal apology, compensation, pursuing responsible officials and devising and implementing effective measures to ensure the safety of tourists", the Chief Executive's Office said. "He clearly indicated that both sides should take action to resolve the matter."

Last year, Hong Kong's import and re-export trade with the Philippines amounted to about HK$41 billion and HK$22 billion, respectively. The re-exports were 13 per cent more than in 2011.

In May, Taiwan imposed sanctions a week after the Philippine coastguard shot dead a fisherman, 65, but lifted them after a Philippine special envoy visited Taiwan in August to offer an "official apology".

Chan's colleague Dr Benson Wong Wai-kwok said the idea of imposing sanctions was worth Leung's consideration.

New People's Party lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, a businessman, said economic sanctions were preferable to an attempt by the pan-democratic People Power to ban Filipino domestic helpers. "Hong Kong is a free port … but rather than [allowing the incident] to drag on, we should consider measures that could bear fruit," Tien said.

Executive councillor Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung sounded caution on the impact on business.



August 23, 2010 Seven Hong Kong tourists and their guide are killed and others injured in a tour bus hijacking in Manila. Police shoot dead armed hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza. Hong Kong issues black travel alert on the Philippines.

August 24 President Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao express condolences in joint letter to chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

September 1, 2011 Wen tells Philippine President Benigno Aquino face to face to handle the tragedy aftermath properly.

October 5, 2013 Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario pledges to try to arrange a meeting between the country's top diplomat in Hong Kong and the families of the dead.

October 6 President Xi Jinping tells Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying he has told officials to keep following up with Manila. Hong Kong journalists are ejected from the Apec summit in Bali for "screaming" at Aquino.

October 7 Leung and Aquino agree in Bali to hold ministerial meetings "as soon as possible" to discuss follow-up action.

October 8 The foreign ministry says Manila should pay high attention to requirements and concerns of the families.

October 9 Premier Li Keqiang urges Manila to resolve row as soon as possible.

October 10 Aquino's spokesman quoted as saying Beijing's request "came too late" as Leung "agreed to put the issue behind them".