POLITICS – Full Lowdown: Time Hong Kong Moved On from Manila Bus Crisis 50


The Hong Kong journalists removed from Indonesia’s APEC summit elicited little sympathy from netizens this week. HK radio and TV crews had their press passes revoked and were briefly detained by Bali Police after hollering questions about the Manila Bus Crisis at Benigno Aquino, president of the Philippines. Whilst this blog believes world leaders often deserve a good heckling, the reporters in question were accused of adopting an ‘activist’ approach by aggressively shouting irrelevant questions…

Some online commenters saw their actions as irresponsible and their eviction from the premises somewhat deserved, if not a little extreme. NOW TV, however, stated their reporters were “only engaged in normal reporting duties.” This is in-keeping with the competitive behaviour of tabloid journalists back in HK, where it is ‘normal’ to accost public figures, trigger scuffles with sharpened elbows or harass victims.

The Hong Kong Journalist’s Association, have since gone on to decry the APEC incident as a violation of press freedom. Whilst ‘doorstepping‘ politicians is standard practice and the Indonesian authorities went too far in banning the reporters from the event, their removal was clearly not political. The Association would be wise to pick their battles and concentrate on press freedom issues closer to home.

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HK Journalist’s Association protest at the Philippines consulate, via AP.

The incident in 2010 was obviously awful and tragic and the authorities were ill-trained and ill-equipped to cope with the situation – the Philippines is, after all, a developing country. Nevertheless, to be pressuring the country’s president, years later, to personally apologise is unusual and misguided. These were not the actions of a political or militant group. The perpetrator did not have an ideology or agenda beyond his own deranged personal interests. It was a lone-wolf incident.

It could be argued that the state or police bear some responsibility when mass public shootings occur in the US, yet no-one demands that Obama beg for forgiveness. 2010 also saw a series of mass stabbings and hammer attacks in mainland schools by lone wolves, yet Hu Jintao was never accosted for an apology and there were no street protests – it would make no sense.

It would be equally bizarre if the Hong Kong government imposed a ‘black travel’ advisory against such countries where isolated incidents once took place. Yet, years later, this is exactly what remains in place against the Philippines…

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As Hong Kong is unable to form foreign policy and lacks an independent diplomatic voice on the world stage, this is the only way the government can directly chastise the Philippines. It is nonsensical, ineffective and infantile – if only because almost all of the Security’s Bureau’s reasoning could be applied to various areas of the mainland. Yet no-one is calling for a travel boycott of China.

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via Felix Wong / SCMP.

Since the APEC fallout, the rhetoric has continued to escalate. Today, a mindless group of lawmakers from People’s Power called for Filipino domestic helpers to banned from working in HK, with a view to banning all Filipinos from entering the territory outright. Few SCMP readers agreed with their extreme stance, yet they weren’t the first to suggest punishing a completely unrelated section of the local community…

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Photo via SCMP

Lam Yi Lai – property agent and consistent last-place-loser in Kowloon West by-elections – gained notoriety at the time of the crisis when she called on Hong Kongers to sack their Filipino maids…

“The Filipinos are laughing.  How are they like us?  We are crying while they are laughing…  Those people are incomprehensible… I think people have the right to fire the Filipina workers. I am telling you that you absolutely have the right. I have already fired mine.”

As recently as June this year, local football fans racially abused the Philippine national football team – throwing bottles, booing and calling them ‘slaves’. Reports claimed the abuse was rooted in the bus crisis stand-off.

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via AFP

Hong Kongers may still wish to assign blame or see closure but Manila mayor Joseph Estrada has already apologised for the tragedy – further demands for grovelling from the country’s leader or blood money from its government are inappropriate.

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Manila mayor and ex-Philippines president Joseph Estrada, via notevenpolitical.com

Former-leader Donald Tsang bears some responsibility for whipping the population into a frenzy at the time, and this only increased as it became unclear who exactly was in charge during such geopolitical dilemmas. Questions about our relationship with Beijing prolonged the heartache but Benigno Aquino owes us nothing and the ongoing irrational behaviour of a vocal few seems more rooted in racism than any sense of genuine outrage. It is time to move on.

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Rallies/demonstrations instigated by, or jointly coordinated by, Hong Wrong (most recent first)…

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  • Andreas

    Excellent article. I agree that the whole thing is absurd. Yes, it can be argued that the incident was handled very badly, but these events unfortunately happen. What good does it do to keep blaming and accusing people who obviously had nothing to do with it? The travel advisory is laughable, especially considering how many HKers travel to The Philippines each year, not to mention the strong economic ties between the SAR and country.

    “Today, a mindless group of lawmakers from People’s Power called for Filipino domestic helpers to be sacked and sent home”

    Sadly, the “sack your Pinoy helper” thing rears its ugly head far too regularly. As if these ladies don’t already suffer enough abuse. I remember an online post a few years ago urging people to fire their Filipino helpers because of the territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands. The poster in question had clearly read a somewhat biased article and was suddenly aware that The Philippines were robbing China (ahem, not really…). The situation in the Spratlys is complex as no less than six countries claim sovereignty and the dispute is decades old. How will firing your helper do anything about it?

    • Tom

      Word.

      “But, sir, why are you firing me?”
      “Yeah, this one time, three years ago, 700 miles away, a crazy dude shot some folks on a bus, so gonna have to let you go, Tara”

      Edit: Actually – I’m gonna go ahead and make a cartoon of this exchange

      • Andreas

        Plus, more than half a century ago, before either of us were born, your country started arguing with a country that didn’t own Hong Kong at the time about some islands in the middle of nowhere that I hadn’t heard about until I read this article the other day.

      • disqus_Rv1GqOyTeN

        And when you go home, Tara, don’t forget to urge your government to take immediate action to correct their mistakes. No more NOT IN OUR CULTURE kind of shit.

      • disqus_Rv1GqOyTeN

        And when you go home, Tara, don’t forget to urge your government to take immediate action to correct their mistakes. No more NOT IN OUR CULTURE kind of shit.

  • Andreas

    Excellent article. I agree that the whole thing is absurd. Yes, it can be argued that the incident was handled very badly, but these events unfortunately happen. What good does it do to keep blaming and accusing people who obviously had nothing to do with it? The travel advisory is laughable, especially considering how many HKers travel to The Philippines each year, not to mention the strong economic ties between the SAR and country.

    “Today, a mindless group of lawmakers from People’s Power called for Filipino domestic helpers to be sacked and sent home”

    Sadly, the “sack your Pinoy helper” thing rears its ugly head far too regularly. As if these ladies don’t already suffer enough abuse. I remember an online post a few years ago urging people to fire their Filipino helpers because of the territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands. The poster in question had clearly read a somewhat biased article and was suddenly aware that The Philippines were robbing China (ahem, not really…). The situation in the Spratlys is complex as no less than six countries claim sovereignty and the dispute is decades old. How will firing your helper do anything about it?

    • Tom

      Word.

      “But, sir, why are you firing me?”
      “Yeah, this one time, three years ago, 700 miles away, a crazy dude shot some folks on a bus, so gonna have to let you go, Tara”

      Edit: Actually – I’m gonna go ahead and make a cartoon of this exchange

      • Andreas

        Plus, more than half a century ago, before either of us were born, your country started arguing with a country that didn’t own Hong Kong at the time about some islands in the middle of nowhere that I hadn’t heard about until I read this article the other day.

      • disqus_Rv1GqOyTeN

        And when you go home, Tara, don’t forget to urge your government to take immediate action to correct their mistakes. No more NOT IN OUR CULTURE kind of shit.

  • Just a HongKonger

    I do not condone the actions of certain Hong Kongers, but that does not diminish our demands on the Philippine government. While we don’t expect the Philippine government to apologize for the acts of Mendoza, they themselves admitted to several major blunders in their own report of the incident, including getting the gunman’s brother involved and not enlisting the help of the Special Action Force. It is for *those* blunders that we demand an apology, which never came.

    And while the black travel alert and proposed maid ban may seem infantile, it is “only way the government can directly chastise the Philippines”, as you said yourself. That’s exactly why Taiwan, also not recognized as a sovereign state by the Philippines, also banned the hiring of Filipino maids for a period after the Luzon Strait shootings. And for them, it worked. An apology was given and the sanctions lifted.

    Also, there is a huge difference between the temporary suspension of issuing new work permits for Filipinos and the immediate sending of everybody home. I do not know exactly what People Power said but I doubt even they would advocate the latter.

    Finally, I looked up Estrada’s “apology” from earlier this year. It was nothing more than a critique of former Mayor Alfredo Lim in order to score political points for himself.

    • Tom

      I’ve made an edit to clarify People Power’s policy idea – it’s worse than previously stated – they want to ban all Filipinos from entering the city. Are long-suffering domestic helpers really the ones to punish? What have they got to do with anything?

      If this is acceptable, then we absolutely must be consistent and ban Egyptians. Ex-president Morsi must apologise for the one-off Hot Air Balloon incident in which Hong Kongers died.

      The situation is absurd – I can’t think of any similar, equivalent international fall-out where there have been such demands made.

  • Just a HongKonger

    I do not condone the actions of certain Hong Kongers, but that does not diminish our demands on the Philippine government. While we don’t expect the Philippine government to apologize for the acts of Mendoza, they themselves admitted to several major blunders in their own report of the incident, including getting the gunman’s brother involved and not enlisting the help of the Special Action Force. It is for *those* blunders that we demand an apology, which never came.

    And while the black travel alert and proposed maid ban may seem infantile, it is “only way the government can directly chastise the Philippines”, as you said yourself. That’s exactly why Taiwan, also not recognized as a sovereign state by the Philippines, also banned the hiring of Filipino maids for a period after the Luzon Strait shootings. And for them, it worked. An apology was given and the sanctions lifted.

    Also, there is a huge difference between the temporary suspension of issuing new work permits for Filipinos and the immediate sending of everybody home. I do not know exactly what People Power said but I doubt even they would advocate the latter.

    Finally, I looked up Estrada’s “apology” from earlier this year. It was nothing more than a critique of former Mayor Alfredo Lim in order to score political points for himself.

    • Tom

      I’ve made an edit to clarify People Power’s policy idea – it’s worse than previously stated – they want to ban all Filipinos from entering the city. Are long-suffering domestic helpers really the ones to punish? What have they got to do with anything?

      If this is acceptable, then we absolutely must be consistent and ban Egyptians. Ex-president Morsi must apologise for the one-off Hot Air Balloon incident in which Hong Kongers died.

      The situation is absurd – I can’t think of any similar, equivalent international fall-out where there have been such demands made.

  • Mueller

    Firing Filipino domestic helpers in order to extract an apology from their ignorant president?! Of course the Hongkongers’ sense of justice urges them to protest after their reporters being mistreated and their demand for an apology being ignored. Especially when it stirred up the painful memories of that incident, which they believe was not handled properly by the Philippines government. But when their pride got hurt, they started to forget about their domestic helpers’ pride. (And I don’t even know if those lawmakers’ pride actually got hurt, or their pride is going into ecstasies over the incident) Their reporters can’t be evicted, but the Filipino helpers can be sacked? And why should those women be sent home because of someone else’s fault? They have nothing to do with this eviction of the reporters. Or with the bus incident.

  • Mueller

    Firing Filipino domestic helpers in order to extract an apology from their ignorant president?! Of course the Hongkongers’ sense of justice urges them to protest after their reporters being mistreated and their demand for an apology being ignored. Especially when it stirred up the painful memories of that incident, which they believe was not handled properly by the Philippines government. But when their pride got hurt, they started to forget about their domestic helpers’ pride. (And I don’t even know if those lawmakers’ pride actually got hurt, or their pride is going into ecstasies over the incident) Their reporters can’t be evicted, but the Filipino helpers can be sacked? And why should those women be sent home because of someone else’s fault? They have nothing to do with this eviction of the reporters. Or with the bus incident.

  • disqus_Rv1GqOyTeN

    “Being a developing country…” that does not exempt the Philippines
    from responsibility of the hostage taking incident. The Hong
    Kong people, as well as their officials have been trying for three
    years to get it resolved, but there had been not response from the Filipino government.
    Had it not been for the courageous act of the reporters, I bet the Philippines will
    continue to play dumb. It is in their culture not to apologize for their
    mistakes, let alone taking responsibility.

    • Tom

      It’s not about responsibility, it’s about means.

      How can such a country be expected to have a highly-trained specially equipped world-class SWAT team?

      • disqus_Rv1GqOyTeN

        It is all about responsibility. You have to be responsible for your action. It is the most important factor to qualify yourself as a civilized country.
        BTW the Manila mayor did not want the involve the SWAT team. He preferred his police force because it is under his absolute control, which is a serious mistake.

  • disqus_Rv1GqOyTeN

    “Being a developing country…” that does not exempt the Philippines
    from responsibility of the hostage taking incident. The Hong
    Kong people, as well as their officials have been trying for three
    years to get it resolved, but there had been not response from the Filipino government.
    Had it not been for the courageous act of the reporters, I bet the Philippines will
    continue to play dumb. It is in their culture not to apologize for their
    mistakes, let alone taking responsibility.

    • Tom

      It’s not about responsibility, it’s about means.

      How can such a country be expected to have a highly-trained specially equipped world-class SWAT team?

      • disqus_Rv1GqOyTeN

        It is all about responsibility. You have to be responsible for your action. It is the most important factor to qualify yourself as a civilized country.
        BTW the Manila mayor did not want the involve the SWAT team. He preferred his police force because it is under his absolute control, which is a serious mistake.

  • a hole

    i dun think linking what the lawmakers suggested to the whole incident is appropriate
    after 3 years, are you suggesting, as “that guy” mentioned, we should just put it behind?
    banning maids n stuffs like that seemed to me a last resort to get attention from the govt
    so pls dun use this as a way to divert the attention to the role of the philipine govt in the incident

  • a hole

    i dun think linking what the lawmakers suggested to the whole incident is appropriate
    after 3 years, are you suggesting, as “that guy” mentioned, we should just put it behind?
    banning maids n stuffs like that seemed to me a last resort to get attention from the govt
    so pls dun use this as a way to divert the attention to the role of the philipine govt in the incident

  • yugi oh

    and the irony that the name people power party of Hongkong is the same as the event the Philippines was known for,called the bloodless revolution or simply called “people power” revolution,
    And the color of the party is yellow,same as the color of the revolution.The irony.hehhe

  • yugi oh

    and the irony that the name people power party of Hongkong is the same as the event the Philippines was known for,called the bloodless revolution or simply called “people power” revolution,
    And the color of the party is yellow,same as the color of the revolution.The irony.hehhe

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