Threat of sanctions against Philippines 'overdue'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 5:56am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 5:56am

Hong Kong should have got tough with the Philippines and imposed economic sanctions more than three years ago over the fatal Manila hostage drama, a survivor and a family hit by the tragedy say.

They said the government had never taken a hard line after eight Hongkongers were shot dead and seven injured when a bus was hijacked by a sacked Philippine policeman in 2010.

Now that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has raised the possibility of sanctions if no substantial progress is made in talks on the issue, they hope Manila will be pushed into accepting their demands, which include an apology and compensation.

"The announcement was late, but it is still a positive signal," Tse Chi-kin, the older brother of slain tour guide Masa Tse Ting-chunn, said yesterday after Leung's statement. "It is the first time the Hong Kong government has taken such a tough stance with the Philippines in three years."

The Legislative Council is to debate and vote on a motion today proposing economic sanctions against the Philippines.

Democrat lawmaker James To Kun-sun said the government could, as a warning, stop official visits and purchases of Philippine products. But to exert real pressure, To said a total embargo of goods was needed.

Tse called on Hongkongers to present a united front in exerting pressure on the country. "The Philippine government has been ignoring Hong Kong and disrespectful to Hongkongers. We should resort to tougher measures to push the Philippine government to take responsibility."

Survivor Yik Siu-ling also felt sanctions could push Manila to follow up properly on the case.

"I believe the Hong Kong government has the backup of the central government," she said.

Yik, whose lower jaw, left thumb and right index finger were shattered by a bullet, planned to visit Taiwan next month for more cosmetic surgery. The process is expected to last a year and cost about HK$1 million.

Mainland analysts of international relations expect the Hong Kong government to tighten visa requirements against Filipinos or impose other sanctions.

Professor Jia Xiudong , a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said he believed Hong Kong had properly consulted the Foreign Ministry, or its representatives in Hong Kong, before making the threat.

Shi Yinhong , an international relations professor at Renmin University, said Beijing's endorsement was needed if the sanctions affected military or political ties with Manila, but Hong Kong could impose economic sanctions independently of the central government.

"Any measures taken by the Hong Kong government will not go beyond its limit," Shi said.

"As the Philippines rely on mainland China and Hong Kong for economic development, the sanctions may push Manila to take further steps to respond to Hongkongers' demands."