Philippines’ Aquino regrets HK deaths in 2011


NUSA DUA, Indonesia–Philippine President Benigno Aquino expressed regret over a Manila hostage crisis that left eight Hong Kong residents dead in 2010, but the Chinese territory’s leader said Tuesday his words were not enough. Aquino made the comments during a 30-minute meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Monday at an Asia-Pacific leaders’ summit on the Indonesian island of Bali. “Again, we expressed our deepest regret (and said) that it’s so contrary to how we treat visitors in our country,” Aquino told accompanying Filipino reporters, according to transcripts of the interview released by his office on Tuesday. Aquino said he emphasized to Leung that the apology did not mean that “we are at fault as a country, as a government as a people.” “We pointed out, that from our perspective, there is one lone gunman responsible for this tragedy,” Aquino said. In 2011 Aquino released a similar statement of regret, while insisting no formal apology would be given.

Asked whether Leung accepted his expression of regret, Aquino said: “More or less. I think he mentioned something like ‘We recognize that in your culture personal fault is what you apologise for.’” Leung, however, gave a less positive assessment of the talks. “The Philippine side, at the beginning, took the position that the matter has been resolved. I did not agree,” he told Hong Kong reporters in Bali. “I believe, and I made the case to the Philippine side, that this matter, unless it is resolved properly, will continue to stand in the way in the normal relationships between Hong Kong and the Philippines.” Hong Kong has long demanded a formal apology plus compensation for the relatives of the victims and for the injured. A disgruntled former policeman hijacked a tourist bus packed with Hong Kong tourists in Manila in 2010 in a desperate bid to regain his job. After lengthy negotiations, police launched a bungled assault that left the gunman and eight hostages dead, plus seven wounded. In August survivors and relatives of the dead sued the Philippine government in a Hong Kong court to demand compensation and an official apology. The incident enraged Hong Kong, a city where an estimated 250,000 Filipino migrants work, many as domestic helpers. The Hong Kong government continues to warn its residents against traveling to the Philippines. The issue surfaced again this week during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali, when Indonesia revoked credentials for nine Hong Kong journalists who had shouted questions at Aquino about the incident. Aquino said on Monday he agreed with the expulsion. “Anywhere we go, we are expected to conform to certain norms of behavior,” he said, adding that the journalists were “very aggressive.”