Monday, August 30, 2010

Pressure Builds on Philippine President

Also see: Phillipines President's First Test

"Hong Kong residents rally to honor hijacking victims, protest handling of crisis" by Associated Press | August 30, 2010

HONG KONG — An estimated 80,000 residents marched yesterday in honor of eight people killed in a bus hijacking in Manila, denouncing the Philippine government for botching the rescue operation and demanding justice for the dead.

Former Philippine police Officer Rolando Mendoza commandeered a bus carrying a 20-member Hong Kong tour group visiting the Philippine capital last week, hoping to reverse his dismissal from the force on what he said were bogus robbery and extortion charges.

Mendoza released several children and elderly hostages early in the 12-hour standoff broadcast live on television but later opened fire on the tourists. A police sniper shot and killed Mendoza — but not before eight tourists were killed by gunfire. Three others were seriously wounded, including one still in a coma.

The Philippines government ordered a thorough investigation into last Monday’s incident but that has done little to stem growing anger in this wealthy southern Chinese territory where violent crime is rare.

About 20 Hong Kong legislators led the crowd gathered at an urban park in a short ceremony honoring the dead before setting off on a march to the financial district.

Police did not estimate the size of the crowd, but organizers said about 80,000 people took part.

“That 80,000 people can show up in such a short period of time — it shows the anger and unity of the Hong Kong people,’’ lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong said.

The bloody ending stunned Hong Kong residents, who blasted Manila police for what they called an amateurish rescue attempt.

“Everyone saw how the Philippine government mishandled the situation before TV cameras and the chaos in the country. As a Chinese person, I need to demand justice,’’ worker Andy Wong, 49, said at yesterday’s protest.

Manila’s police chief has taken leave, and four leaders of the assault team were relieved pending an investigation. Officials have said the firearms used by 200 police commandos will be tested to see if any of the hostages were hit by police gunfire.