Hong Kong declares sanction against the Philippines

Updated: 2014-01-30 03:05


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HONG KONG - The Hong Kong government on Wednesday declared a sanction against the Philippines since Manila failed to make a formal apology and meet all other demands by families of victims died in a hostage crisis three years ago.

Chief Executive CY Leung announced that the sanction will take effect on February 5 by suspending 14-day visa-free treatment for holders of diplomatic and official passports of the Republic of the Philippines.

According to Leung, the suspension of the courtesy treatment would be just the first-phase measure of a series of sanctions.

The deadline for negotiation with the Philippines had run out and the Philippine government still had not satisfied all the demands claimed by the injured and families of the victims, especially a formal apology, Leung said.

"The SAR government and the families consider that the latest Philippine response is unacceptable," he said in a press conference held by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, noting that his government's handling of the issue was backed by the central government.

Spokeswoman of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying said in Beijing Wednesday that the central government supports the SAR government's endeavor to properly handle the aftermath of the hostage crisis and urged the Philippines to show more sincerity to resolve the problems which affects Chinese people's feelings.

According to Leung, there are about 700 to 800 Philippine individuals holding diplomatic or official passports travel to Hong Kong each year. According to Secretary for Security Lai Tung- kwok, the accredited Philippine consular officials in Hong Kong will not be affected.

When the sanction takes effect, holders of those passports who plan to visit Hong Kong will have to apply for a visa beforehand in accordance with normal procedures in Hong Kong's Immigration Department or China's diplomatic and consular missions overseas.

A dismissed local police officer, Rolando Mendoza, hijacked a tourist bus carrying 25 people in Manila on August 23, 2010. Mendoza and eight Hong Kong tourists were killed, and seven injured during the tragedy.

The injured and families of the victims have claimed four demands: official apology, compensation, punishing accountable officials for the handling in a bungled rescue attempt, as well as improving security measures for tourists in the Philippines.

Philippine President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III has consistently refused to make an open apology, saying it is against the Philippine culture to apologize for mistakes of individuals.

In last November, Leung said his government would go on pushing for progress in talks with the Philippine government and announced a deadline of one month after which "necessary actions" would be taken unless "substantial progress" was made.

The Chief Executive said earlier this month that the negotiation had achieved preliminary effects after his meeting with Philippine president in Indonesia, which apparently was still no match for the four demands.

"Since my meeting with the president of the Philippines in Bali about three months ago, the SAR government and the Philippine government have been holding discussions to work out a satisfactory response to the four demands," Leung said.

He told the press that the Philippine side has addressed three of the demands positively with substantive progress including turning over a token of solidarity to one of the victims.

However, the chief executive said there still remains a substantive difference between the two sides on the demand for a formal apology despite many rounds of discussions, which Hong Kong deems the most important one.

The chief executive said that Hong Kong still welcomes the continuation of dialogue with the Philippines to bring the issue to a final conclusion and he believes that resolution on the demand for a formal apology should also be made.

Xie Zhijian, elder brother of the tourist captain who died in the hostage crisis, said the government's sanction is a breakthrough and is of great significance to the injured and victims' families.

Xie said if the Philippine side still has no response to the demand for a formal apology, he suggests the government to implement further measures including economic sanctions.

Yi Xiaoling, who was injured during the rescue attempt, said she supports the government's sanction and stressed that there are four demands that the Philippine side should carefully respond to.