The official Xinhua news agency yesterday denounced Philippine President Benigno Aquino as "disrespectful" for his continued refusal to apologise for the Manila hostage tragedy that killed eight Hongkongers, and it warned of further sanctions.
In a strongly worded open letter to the president, posted on its website, Xinhua questioned whether Aquino was competent to hold office and held him responsible for the failure to resolve the saga, three years after the killings by gunman Rolando Mendoza and the botched rescue operation.
Speaking last week, after Hong Kong removed visa-free access from Philippine officials and diplomats, Aquino reiterated his claim that an apology could create a "legal liability" for his government, and said compensation had been paid.
Xinhua said Aquino's reasoning was "illogical", and that the affair was dragging on because of his "stubbornness".
The letter was the second scathing attack by Xinhua on Aquino in a week. Last week, the state-run agency called him an "amateurish" politician who was "ignorant of history" after Aquino compared Beijing to Nazi Germany over its territorial claims in the South China Sea.
"To the victims' families and Hong Kong people, what is more important is a formal apology from the Philippines," the letter said. "President Aquino, only giving out money but refusing to apologise, not only shows disrespect to the families of the deceased and injured, but also violates the universal principle of righteousness."
It said the ongoing saga showed the Philippine government was failing to protect tourists, and questioned Aquino's capability as a leader.
"Under your presidency, your capital Manila is named as 'the kidnapping hub of Asia'," the letter said. "The Philippines is described as a 'failed state', and this is related to your capability as the nation's president."
The Hong Kong government announced a "first phase" of sanctions last month, after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying raised the city's concerns with Aquino on the sidelines of a regional summit in October.
The letter said the sanctions were modest and would only affect 800 Filipinos per year, but added that the city's government was ready for tougher measures.
"The public livelihood of the Philippines would be significantly affected if Hong Kong suspended Filipino tourists from coming to the city, and imposed bans on working visas other than those granted for foreign domestic workers," it said.
Aquino should bear in mind the interests of the Philippine public and push for an early settlement, it added.
"The Philippine police admitted they made mistakes during the rescue," the letter said. "The simplest way to handle the issue is to blame officials who have neglected their duty, and apologise for that."