MANILA BUS TRAGEDY
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Manila hostage crisis

Tsang blamed for delay in Manila hostage crisis settlement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2014, 12:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 April, 2014, 8:13am

A brother of the tour guide killed in the 2010 Manila bus hijacking blamed a lack of "engagement" by the administration of former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for the prolonged delay in Hong Kong reaching a diplomatic resolution with the Philippines.

Tse Chi-hang also confirmed that Philippine officials - who reached a deal on Wednesday with relatives of the eight Hongkongers who were killed, which included a public expression of "most sorrowful regret" - did privately apologise for Manila's handling of the incident.

Tse, whose brother Masa Tse Ting-chunn died in the tragedy, said he felt the matter could have been resolved earlier.

"During the first or second year [after the incident], the government did not engage with the negotiations with the Philippines. The [dispute] could have been resolved earlier if the government had been more proactive," Tse told RTHK.

Tsang was the chief executive at the time of the tragedy, before he was succeeded by Leung Chun-ying in mid-2012.

Tse said Jose Rene Almendras, the cabinet secretary of Philippine President Benigno Aquino, did say "sorry" to relatives, while Manila mayor Joseph Estrada delivered an apology on multiple occasions.

Almendras told reporters this week that he could not remember whether he had used the word "sorry". Tse said that was likely because Almendras had received diplomatic and legal advice not to publicly apologise.

Last year, a senior diplomat at Beijing's embassy in Manila said the Philippines was avoiding making a public apology because it might leave the country open to being sued for misconduct by the victims' families.

In Beijing, a senior official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told a delegation of media executives from Hong Kong that the ministry was pleased that a deal had been reached and had offered "help and guidance" to the city's government in dealing with "compensation and the legal aspect", according to Keith Kam Woon-ting, chairman of the Newspaper Society.

Meanwhile, Tse's other brother, Tse Chi-kin, yesterday visited Masa's remains in Diamond Hill columbarium for the first time since the deal with the Philippine government was reached.

Additional reporting by Adrian Wan in Beijing