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 Protests in Hong Kong over Manila bloodbath

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PostSubject: Protests in Hong Kong over Manila bloodbath   Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:27 pm



HONG KONG (AFP) - – Hong Kong protestors Tuesday slammed the Philippines and newspapers accused Manila police of incompetence as the territory plunged into mourning for eight tourists slain in a hostage drama.

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 an emotional encounter shown on Cable News TV. Related article: Survivor berates Philippines over siege

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

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

A steady stream of protestors organised by political and civic groups marched to Hong Kong's Philippine consulate -- where police numbers were stepped up -- to vent their anger over Monday's events.

"We are very angry about how the Philippine government handled this case," said Alex Tou, head of the Kowloon Federation of Associations, who led one group of 40 shouting demonstrators.

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.

He 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.

Officials said one of the flights would depart from Manila Tuesday evening to bring at least two survivors and family members home.

Lurid photographs of the bloodbath dominated the front pages of newspapers in Hong Kong, home to an estimated 150,000 Filipinos mostly working as domestic helpers.

Related article: China condemns Philippine hijack 'atrocity'

The Philippines said it was sending a delegation to Hong Kong soon to explain the hijack crisis in fuller detail, after a disgraced former senior police inspector seized the tour bus to press for his old job back.

"We're concerned that... because of the public anger in Hong Kong over what happened, there will be threats against Filipinos living and working there," presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang said.

A few Chinese-language papers in Hong Kong changed their mast-head colour from red to black in mourning.

Editorials echoed Tsang in querying the response of Philippine authorities, after the Hong Kong leader had late Monday called the handling of the crisis "very disappointing".

Newspapers bemoaned missed opportunities by police to end the siege much earlier, including when the gunman had presented a target to snipers by waving 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.

The Apple Daily said: "It makes people question the competence of the police."

China's embassy in Manila urged the government "to take concrete measures to ensure the safety and security of the Chinese citizens" in the Philippines.
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