Hong Kong Mourns Killings

Residents of the Chinese territory grieve for loved ones lost in a hostage incident.
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Philippine policemen begin their attack on a tourist bus hijacked in Manila, Aug. 23, 2010.
Philippine policemen begin their attack on a tourist bus hijacked in Manila, Aug. 23, 2010.

HONG KONG—Hong Kong government buildings flew flags at half-mast Tuesday in mourning for eight of the territory's citizens, killed after a gunman hijacked a tour bus in the Philippines and held 25 people hostage.

The group's tour bus was hijacked and held during a 12-hour ordeal by disgruntled former police officer Rolando Mendoza, 55, who was killed by security forces in a raid some say was mishandled.

Authorities in Hong Kong have issued a strongly worded warning against any travel to the Philippines, and are planning to fly home any remaining tour groups in the country.

"We have now been able to verify the identities of the people who are actually injured and who unfortunately died on this occasion," Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) chief executive Donald Tsang told reporters Tuesday.

"First of all, our priority is to look after the injured and the families of the dead who are now in Manila and those who are in Hong Kong," Tsang added. "We are helping them."

The HKSAR government website was mostly black Tuesday, carrying a large message, "In remembrance of the Manila hijack victims," and linking to a Facebook condolence page.

It named the four dead men and four dead women as: Doris Leung Chung-see, Jessie Leung Song-yi, Ken Leung Kam-wing, Fu Cheuk-yan, Yeung Yee-wa, Yeung Yee-kam, Wong Tze-lam and Masa Tse Ting-Chun.

Seven injured tourists were listed as under observation in a Manila hospital, but arrangements were being made to provide health and psychological care to the victims and their families as soon as they returned to Hong Kong, officials said.

"There are altogether six families involved," Tsang said. "The six families have dead and injured in Manila."

"We have arranged to make sure they are able to visit their families, those in hospital to comfort them, to meet their needs, and as soon as possible to help them come back to Hong Kong," he added.

Altogether, 21 Hong Kong tourists were aboard the bus. Six were released at the start of the siege.

Response criticized

A survivor surnamed Leung outside a Manila hospital said the scene aboard the Hong Tai Travel Agency-chartered bus was "really ghastly."

"Why did so many hours pass before anyone came to help us?" she asked.

Hong Kong's leader Donald Tsang criticized the handling of the crisis.

"It is most regrettable," a tearful Tsang told reporters. "The way it was handled, particularly the outcome, I find disappointing."

The Philippines police force has responded by saying that the mood of the gunman was considered too unstable for them to launch any precipitate action.

Liu Meishi, general manager of the Hong Tai Travel Agency that ran the tour, said the group had been scheduled to fly home to Hong Kong on Aug. 23.

"The attacker was a former policeman, and had also been in the military," Liu said.

"Recently, he was made redundant by the authorities, which meant that he lost his income ... Apparently he said he had suffered injustice, and no one had taken any notice."

But she denied that the attack would affect future tour plans to the Philippines.

"Incidents like this could happen anywhere. An isolated incident won't influence future tour groups to Manila," Liu said.

Hong Kong residents watched the gruesome drama unfold on live television, where police commandos could be seen breaking the windows of the bus minutes after a series of gunshots were heard and the driver of the bus was seen running to safety.

The commandos then struggled repeatedly to smash their way into the bus for over half an hour. As they did so, further gunshots could be heard, causing the officers to duck down and take cover. After around an hour the gunman was eventually killed and the hostages freed.

Mainland response

The Chinese embassy in Manila said in a statement that it "strongly condemned the atrocity by the hostage-taker," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"The Chinese government ... expresses grave condolences to the victimized Hong Kong compatriots and conveys profound sympathy to the bereaved families," the statement said.

An official surnamed Sun in the political section of the Chinese embassy in Manila said Chinese still in Manila shouldn't regard themselves as targets based on their ethnicity.

"This is an isolated incident," Sun said. "If you say that it happened because they were Chinese, then you turn all Chinese into the victims of this incident, into targets under threat."

"Such thinking is really a little too sloppy."

China, which took Hong Kong back from British rule in 1997, has said it will send a working team to the Philippines to help deal with the aftermath and personally look into the situation of the victims and survivors.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Li Li and in Mandarin by Ding Xiao. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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