(Adds comments from Manila and Beijing)
By James Pomfret
HONG KONG Nov 5 Hong Kong threatened
unspecified economic sanctions on the Philippines on Tuesday
unless substantial progress is made within a month in talks
demanding Manila's apology and compensation for a hostage
tragedy three years ago.
Hong Kong and the Philippines have close economic ties, with
more than 100,000 Filipino domestic helpers working in the city,
but emotions still run high over the 2010 killing of eight Hong
Kong tourists in Manila by a sacked police officer.
Speaking ahead of a debate by lawmakers calling for
sanctions against the Philippines, Hong Kong leader Leung
Chun-ying pressed Manila for a "concrete and timely response".
"I declare that unless we obtain steady progress within a
month, the (Hong Kong) government will take necessary sanctions
action," said Leung.
Leung did not specify what the sanctions might be. Hong
Kong, a former British colony which returned to Chinese rule in
1997, has sought an apology and compensation.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it supported Hong Kong's
call for a prompt response.
"We demand that the Philippines earnestly respond to the
concerns of Hong Kong society about this, especially the
reasonable demands of the family members of the hostages and
take measures as soon as possible to give a response," spokesman
Hong Lei said.
"We also hope that the Hong Kong government can continue to
maintain in communication with the Philippines about this
China and the Philippines also have overlapping claims of
potentially oil- and gas-rich waters in the South China Sea.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told
a news briefing the government is "working quietly to achieve a
result that is mutually satisfactory", but declined to discuss
details of Manila's response.
Raul Hernandez, the foreign ministry spokesman, said Manila
hoped the hostage row would not be linked to visa-free
arrangements for Filipinos travelling to Hong Kong.
Another possibility is a freeze on domestic helpers, similar
to a move by Taiwan this year following the fatal shooting of a
Taiwan fisherman by the Philippine coastguard.
The Taiwan sanctions were dropped in August, however, after
Manila offered a formal apology.
Leung, who took office last July and has since seen his
ratings plummet over contentious policies and scandals engulfing
his team, was criticised last month for not taking a stronger
stance with Manila.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino has so far ruled out
apologising for the tragedy.
Manila City Councillor Bernardito Ang, a representative of
Manila mayor Joseph Estrada, was also recently in Hong Kong
seeking to defuse the row.
The tragedy occurred when a coachload of Hong Kong tourists
in Manila were taken hostage by a policeman who had just been
Following a prolonged standoff and negotiations, watched on
live television by thousands in Hong Kong, the gunman opened
(Additional Reporting by Manuel Mogato in MANILA and Ben
Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)