MANILA — A diplomatic controversy between the Philippines and Hong Kong is growing, after Hong Kong lawmakers approved a measure late Thursday night that would place visa restrictions on Philippine citizens. Hong Kong wants an official apology from Manila over a botched hostage rescue attempt three years ago that left eight Hong Kong nationals dead and wounded seven others.
To press Manila for concessions, the Hong Kong Legislative Council passed a measure that would revoke the ability of Philippine passport holders to go in and out of Hong Kong without a visa.
The Hong Kong Council also proposed a ban on work visas for Filipino domestic workers seeking new contracts starting in April. It also wants to limit the time that workers renewing their contracts can stay and do away with contract extensions.
Besides an official apology, lawmakers want Manila to give compensation to the victims and family members of those who were killed, penalize officials directly involved and put measures in place to guarantee tourists’ safety.
The Philippines has not made an apology.
Last month, President Benigno Aquino said that the act of one individual who was “probably mentally unstable at the time should not be construed as the act of the entire country.”
Philippine presidential spokesman Sonny Coloma reiterated in a regular briefing Friday “both sides are working quietly to address these concerns and reach a satisfactory conclusion.”
The administration is calling on citizens to keep their spirits up and not to worry because the government is working hard in their interest and for their welfare, he said.
This week, Beijing for the first time weighed in on the issue. A foreign ministry spokesman urged the Philippines to “earnestly respond” to Hong Kong’s demands.
In August 2010, a heavily armed former police officer hijacked a tour bus of Hong Kong nationals at a popular Manila park and demanded his job back. SWAT officers botched an ambush-style rescue attempt, when the disgruntled officer, Rolando Mendoza found out about it and fired shots that killed eight and wounded seven Hong Kong nationals. The saga was broadcast around the world.
Some victims and family members returned to Manila a year after the incident demanding an official apology from President Aquino. He did not offer one but instead reiterated messages of condolence and sympathy and said government was looking into compensation.