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Hong Kong condemns handling of deadly Manila stand-off

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-08-24

Hong Kong has warned its citizens against travelling to the Philippines as anger mounts at the handling of a hostage crisis in the Philippine capital of Manila on Monday, during which eight tourists from Hong Kong were killed.

AFP - Anger mounted in Hong Kong Tuesday against Philippine authorities as flags flew at half-mast and the stock exchange held a minute's silence in mourning for eight tourists mown down in Manila.

One Hong Kong survivor of Monday's day-long bus siege in the Philippine capital said her husband and two daughters aged 21 and 14 were killed as the crisis reached a bloody climax live on television.

Her 18-year-old son was in intensive care in hospital and her husband died a hero trying to shield his family, said the survivor, identifying herself only as Mrs Leung.

"The Philippine government... I can't accept this. Why did they do this to us?" she told Hong Kong officials who flew to the Manila hospital, in comments shown on Cable News TV.

"(The gunman) did not want to kill us. He only shot us after the negotiations failed," she said, sobbing.

The Hong Kong government raised a "black" travel alert for the Philippines, urging against all travel to one of Southeast Asia's most popular tourist spots.

"We demand that the Philippine authorities conduct a detailed and comprehensive investigation on the incident. They must provide a full account to us as soon as possible," Chief Executive Donald Tsang said.

Tsang also urged all Hong Kong tour groups in the Philippines to return home.

The government organised two chartered flights by Hong Kong's flag carrier Cathay Pacific to take relatives of the hostages, as well as psychologists, doctors and social workers, to Manila.

It said it was planning to bring some of the survivors and families home on one of the flights departing Tuesday evening from Manila.

Flags on government buildings flew at half-mast as a mark of respect for the victims, who were part of a Hong Kong tour group, and the normally hectic stock exchange paused in silence at the start of Tuesday's trading.

Lurid photographs of the bloodbath dominated the front pages of the Hong Kong press, with a few Chinese-language newspapers changing their mast-head colour from red to black in mourning.

Editorials echoed the southern Chinese territory's leader in querying the response of Philippine authorities.

"The way it is handled -- particularly the outcome -- is very disappointing," Tsang had told reporters late Monday.

Newspapers bemoaned missed opportunities by police to end the siege much earlier, including when the gunman -- a disgraced former senior police inspector -- had waved from the bus door.

"Their appalling professional standards, and the lack of strategic planning, made observers both angry and sad. This tragedy could have been avoided," the Hong Kong Economic Journal said.

Also noting the length of time it took Manila police commandos to intervene, the Apple Daily said: "It makes people question the competence of the police."

The Standard said Philippine authorities must be held to account.

"What went so terribly wrong?" the English-language daily said.

"What did the gunman tell police during the negotiations? What was the response from the police? The Hong Kong government must also demand that Manila provide answers for the many questions."

But while Manila police defended their actions, Hong Kong leader Tsang complained that he had been unable all Monday to reach Philippine President Benigno Aquino.

China told all its citizens travelling to the Philippines to exercise caution, and its embassy in Manila urged the government "to take concrete measures to ensure the safety and security of the Chinese citizens" there.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi telephoned his Philippine counterpart to express Beijing's shock and demand a thorough investigation, the official Xinhua news agency said.


Date created : 2010-08-24


    Eight hostages reported dead in Manila bus siege

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