| Philippine authorities have pledged to investigate the botched hostage rescue operation [AFP]
Thousands of people have rallied in Hong Kong to demand justice for victims of last week’s Philippines hostage crisis in which eight tourists from Hong Kong were killed.
Organisers billed the Hong Kong rally on Sunday as a rare show of unity among pro-Beijing and opposition groups, who are jointly staging the march.
“The main theme [of Sunday’s rally] is to express our condolences to those who died in this tragedy and call on the Philippine government to conduct a full, fair and independent investigation,” Albert Ho, the chairman of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, said.
The rally comes almost a week after the botched hostage rescue operation on a tourist bus in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, on August 23.
Rolando Mendoza, a sacked Philippine police officer, took the busload of Hong Kong tourists hostage in a bid to have himself cleared of extortion charges and get his job back.
The siege lasted more than 11-hours and Filipino security forces have been criticised for their handling of the crisis.
‘Killed by gunman’
Police in the Philippines have said they are certain that the tourists who died in the hostage attack were killed by Mendoza, rather than by security forces.
The Philippine government has pledged to investigate the botched rescue operation
But Jessie Robredo, the Philippine interior secretary who is in charge of the national police, has acknowledged “inadequacies” in the rescue operation, and promised an investigation.
The violence against the tourists, and the Philippine government’s admittedly poor handling of the crisis, has sparked fear among an estimated 200,000 Filipinos living in Hong Kong, most of whom work as low-paid domestic helpers.
“We are very worried to be living in a Chinese community now,” Joy Fajardo, a Filipina living in Hong Kong, said.
The government of the Philippines says it is working to soothe tensions in Hong Kong.
Val Roque, the Philippine vice consul, sent a text message to members of Hong Kong’s Filipino community asking them to “set aside what they are doing” in order to attend memorial masses on Sunday.
“The masses are the Filipino community’s way to express their grief and sympathy in relation to the tragedy in Manila,” Roque said.
But some unconfirmed reports allege employers in Hong Kong are trying to vent their anger at the tourist killings by sacking or attacking Filipina domestic workers.
Fajardo said text messages had been exchanged saying that more than 30 Filipina maids have been fired following the tragedy, including one whose contract was terminated allegedly because she had the same family name as the gunman.
There were also rumours of three maids being killed.
“We don’t know if these cases are true. But we are very scared,” Fajardo said.
Roque downplayed fears of attacks against Filipinos, saying there had been no confirmed reports of harassment of physical abuse.
“We trust our friends in Hong Kong would not do anything untoward against Filipinos here … But we understand the anger must be released,” he said.
Sunday’s rally follows a memorial for siege victims attended by Donald Tsang, Hong Kong’s chief executive.