Legco set to back call to withdraw visa-free access to Filipino visitors

Lawmakers ready to put pressure on Manila despite fresh hope of compensation deal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 4:30am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 4:30am

Lawmakers are rallying behind a call to withdraw visa-free access for Filipino visitors to Hong Kong despite reports of progress towards a compensation deal for victims of the 2010 Manila hostage siege.

A non-binding Legislative Council motion urging the suspension of the visa-free scheme looks set to be passed on Wednesday after parties from across the political spectrum indicated they would support it.

Lawmakers want the government to put pressure on the Philippine leadership and Manila city government to compensate families of eight Hongkongers killed by sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza, as well as the injured.

The call comes despite a joint statement on Thursday by Manila City Council representative Bernardito Ang and Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is working with the victims and families, indicating that a deal was getting closer.

Former security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, will move the call to stop visa-free access as an amendment to radical pan-democrat Albert Chan Wai-yip's motion seeking sanctions on the Philippines. She has won the support of two leading Beijing-loyalist parties, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Federation of Trade Unions. Pan-democrats are also expected to support her amendment.

Chan's motion is expected to pass. But DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung says his party may not support an amendment by Democratic Party lawmaker Sin Chung-kai as it "might infringe the existing trade agreements".

Sin wants the government to stop buying Philippine products, halt negotiations on air routes and trade and urge the public to boycott Philippine goods.

But FTU lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin will support both amendments.

"Though the motion has no binding effect, it will exert pressure not only on the Hong Kong government but also the Philippines - as pan-democrats and the pro-establishment camp join forces on this issue," he said.

Security minister Lai Tung-kwok would not comment on the amendments until the meeting.