Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying hinted yesterday that a deal to secure an apology and compensation from the Philippines for the victims of the 2010 Manila hostage tragedy could be near.
Leung's comments have been taken as an indication that he will not carry through his threat on November 5 to impose sanctions on Manila if it failed to come up with a deal within a month. The deadline passes today.
"The progress we have made so far makes us hopeful," Leung said yesterday. "I hope that the demands of the families of the victims will be satisfied within a relatively short time."
But Leung, who did not refer to the deadline, would not say how much longer he expected the discussions to take, adding that both sides had taken a "positive and practical attitude" towards solving their differences.
Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is working with survivors of the tragedy and relatives of the eight people killed, warned that the public's patience was wearing thin.
"It is OK if there are no sanctions on [December] 5 as long as some progress can be achieved on the 10th or 15th," To said. "But if the government just keeps saying there is progress, but still nothing comes out after, say, Christmas or New Year, Hong Kong people will hold the government accountable."
Some survivors and relatives yesterday agreed that the government should hold off imposing sanctions for the time being.
Tse Chi-kin, brother of slain tour guide, Masa Tse Ting-chunn, said: "Now it looks like progress is being made, and I don't mind waiting a bit longer."
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok was also optimistic. "Both sides share the same goal and are working hard and quietly towards [a deal]," Lai said.
There had been support for sanctions, and lawmakers backed a non-binding motion calling on the government to act. But that was before Typhoon Haiyan killed thousands of Filipinos, leading to suggestions that the deadline should be dropped.
Relations between Hong Kong and the Philippines have soured since sacked policeman Rolando Mendoza took a busload of tourists hostage to demand reinstatement. A botched rescue bid ended in bloodshed.