2010 hostage crisis talks hit snag as Manila rejects 'apology' request

Victims' families unhappy over use of word 'sorrow', even as they hold out hopes of a deal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 December, 2013, 4:17am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

Talks with the Philippines over the 2010 hostage incident appear to have hit a snag after Manila rejected Hong Kong's request to use the word "apology" in its planned apology statement.

Manila opted for the word "sorrow" instead, which the families of the Hong Kong victims found unacceptable.

The families were briefed by Chief Executive's Office director Edward Yau Tang-wah and Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok on Manila's stance late Tuesday evening.

They expressed reservations about Manila's use of the word "sorrow" and asked the officials to reflect their views to the Philippine side.

It was learned that Manila had in previous talks never expressed objection to using the word "apology", which is one of the families' four major demands.

The word "sorrow" was used in 2010 when Philippine President Benigno Aquino, on behalf of the nation and its people, offered Hongkongers his condolences.

He said at the time: "The secretary of foreign affairs has conveyed our deep feelings of sorrow to [China's foreign minister] and the people of Hong Kong through Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang [Yam-kuen]."

A spokesman for the Chief Executive's Office would not comment on the matter.

The other demands - which both sides have largely agreed on - are compensation, punishment for the officials responsible, and tourist safety measures.

The 2010 incident, in which sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza took a busload of Hong Kong tourists hostage, saw seven of the tourists and their tour guide killed and at least two others seriously injured.

Tse Chi-kin, brother of slain tour guide Masa, yesterday said more talks were expected, but he was optimistic a deal could eventually be struck.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who has been working with the survivors and relatives of the victims, said: "The families were led to believe a deal would be near after a meeting with the government last week when they were consulted about the protocol when a deal was struck."

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also appeared optimistic last week that a deal was close.

He praised Manila for having shown a "positive and practical attitude towards resolving the matter", and also explicitly expressed hope of a deal "in a relatively short period of time".

But he changed his tone over the weekend, and touched on the possibility of imposing sanctions against Manila.

On Saturday, he stressed: "We do not, and I repeat, we do not rule out the possibility of having to impose sanctions on the Philippines if [the demands of the families of the victims] are not met."

On Tuesday, he reiterated that imposing sanctions against the country would be a possibility "if there was no deal".

On November 5, Leung warned Manila that Hong Kong would take "necessary actions" unless the Philippines made "substantial progress" within a month in talks demanding an official apology and compensation for the families of the victims.

About two weeks after the ultimatum, the Philippine side gave an undisclosed sum to survivor Yik Siu-ling to help with her medical expenses. Leung described the progress as "substantial".

On Wednesday, Yik flew to Taiwan for an operation to rebuild her jaw, which was shattered when she was shot in the face by the gunman.

Video: Philippine bus hostage-taking incident