CY Leung threatens 'substantial' sanctions against Philippines in hostage row

Chief executive gives the Philippines one month to make progress in compensation talks

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 November, 2013, 10:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 9:59am

Hong Kong has turned up the heat in the Manila hostage row by threatening unspecified sanctions against the Philippines unless progress is made in talks to resolve the issue of compensation for the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said his government would "go on striving for progress" in talks with the Philippine government but delivered a deadline of one month after which "necessary actions" would be taken unless "substantial progress" was made.

Video: Hong Kong threatens sanctions against Philippines in hostage row

Leung's statement, in Chinese, used the word "sanctions" to elaborate on what the "necessary actions" were.

The ultimatum was met with a response from Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez, who said last night: "We are working quietly to achieve a mutually satisfactory conclusion."

The families of those killed and injured in the tour bus bloodbath three years ago - in which sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza opened fire on his Hong Kong hostages amid a bungled rescue attempt, leaving eight dead - are demanding an apology from President Benigno Aquino and financial compensation. Leung's threat - which is understood to have received Beijing's approval - comes ahead of today's Legislative Council debate over proposed economic sanctions, and the possibility of withdrawing visa-free access to the city for Filipinos unless Manila meets the families' demands.

In a statement issued yesterday Leung said: "I now announce that the Hong Kong government will take necessary actions, unless substantial progress is made within one month." He added: "But we cannot reveal our planning of the talks now. We will go on striving for progress."

Lauro Baja, a retired Philippine diplomat who once served as president of the United Nations Security Council, said the threat of sanctions could backfire on Hong Kong.

"In the immediate period, [the possible withdrawal of visa-free access] will hurt the Philippines. But in the long run, Hong Kong will suffer because the presence of Filipinos [in Hong Kong] is beneficial to even Hong Kong government officials, businessmen and other residents," said Baja.

"If the president apologises, that means he is speaking on behalf of the country. It is difficult for him to apologise for himself because he speaks for the nation."

Video: Philippine bus hostage-taking incident