Victim’s Harrowing Story Helped Mend HK-Philippine Rift

26-Apr-2014 Intellasia | The Wall Street Journal | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong resident Yik had her jaw shattered during the botched rescue attempt in 2010, which sparked years of hostilities as Hong Kong attempted to restrict travel to the Philippines and families of the victims pushed for apologies.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III had earlier resisted apologising, citing legal implications of a state apology for the illegal act of one Filipino.

Then, during an international summit last October, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying graphically recounted 37-year-old Yik’s suffering, prompting Aquino to pursue an end to the tension, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras told a news briefing the day after the Philippines expressed its regret for the incident and agreed to provide the victims’ families with compensation. Hong Kong has since agreed to drop all sanctions against the country.

Since the incident in August 2010, when a dismissed Manila police officer took the tourist bus hostage, Yik has had to undergo nearly three dozen operations to reconstruct her shattered jaw. None of the surgeries was 100 percent successful, so Yik went to Taiwan last year to seek treatment.

As she sought an end to her ordeal, Almendras and Edward Yau, director of the Hong Kong chief executive’s office, began negotiating ways to end the tensions. The negotiations were kept under wraps because of the large number of victims that need to be consulted, the sensitive nature of the discussions and the political implications of such a deal.

A final agreement between the two governments was reached two weeks ago, but Hong Kong officials said they had to consult with the families of the victims before going public. Almendras said his team of negotiators was told to return to Hong Kong after Easter, but there was no guarantee the families would accede to the agreement. In the statement delivered this week, the Philippines expressed its sympathy, agreed to provide compensation for the victims and their families, sanction those involved in the failed rescue and ensure tourist’s safety in the Philippines.

Officials in Hong Kong told Almendras they were not sure how the families would react. Even minutes before the Philippines delegation presented the families with their statement of apology, Tse Chi-kin, a brother of the tourist guide killed in the hostage crisis, warned the delegation to be ready since many families were still very emotional.

When the Philippine delegation did finally meet the victims and their families, Almendras headed straight toward Yik.

“I told her that it was her story, it was her circumstance that really caused us to reopen discussions and go to the table again,” he said.

Almendras refused to specify amount of compensation offered to the families of the victims, but said funds came from businesspeople in the Philippines and Hong Kong. The government didn’t contribute a single peso to the compensation package, he stressed. It did, however, help arrange for Yik’s operation in Taipei, which was paid for by donations from private individuals.


Category: Hong Kong

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