Hong Kong threatens sanctions against Philippines in hostage row

This file photo taken on August 23, 2010 shows Philippine policemen taking position as they start their attack on the tourist bus hijacked in Manila. Hong Kong survivors of a Manila hostage crisis and families of those killed sued the Philippine government on August 22, 2013 to demand an apology and compensation, a day before the tragedy's third anniversary.

HONG KONG - Hong Kong's leader threatened sanctions against the Philippines on Tuesday over a row involving the deaths of its tourists in a 2010 hostage crisis in Manila.

The southern Chinese city is demanding a formal apology for the incident, which saw eight of its citizens killed and seven others wounded after negotiations broke down between Philippine authorities and a former police officer who hijacked a tour bus.

"Unless, within a month, there are concrete steps taken to resolve this issue, the government will take necessary actions to apply sanctions," chief executive Leung Chun-ying told reporters Tuesday morning, without going into specifics.

"I urge the Philippines government and/or the Manila municipal government to quickly come up with a proposal to respond to the families of the deceased and the requests of the injured," Leung added.

The apparent incompetence of the police outraged the residents of Hong Kong, a city accustomed to low crime rates, and saw relations with the Southeast Asian country nosedive.

Hong Kong has maintained a travel warning to the country since the episode, while the city's lawmakers have mooted a cancellation of its visa-free arrangement for visitors from the Philippines as well as possible trade sanctions.

More than 160,000 Philippine nationals reside in Hong Kong, with most working as domestic helpers. Bilateral trade between the two totalled some $8.2 billion in 2012.

In October, Manila mayor Joseph Estrada offered to issue apologise for the hostage-taking incident.

But Philippine President Benigno Aquino has refused to make an apology on behalf of the country, insisting the deaths were primarily caused by the actions of the hostage taker.

Manila has offered compensation of US$75,000 (S$93,200) to each family of the deceased and up to US$150,000 to those injured, media reports said.

But the families involved in the hostage crisis have not accepted the money, saying the amount was too low.