Of Hong Kong and Dignity

hong kong 01 bbc

Why is Hong Kong going back to fire up old passions of hate and disrespect?

Hong Kong is starting a program of sanctions to punish the Philippines for declining to apologize, state-to-state, for the botched bus massacre in 2010. The Philippines has expressed its regrets and condolences to the family members, which is a step short of admitting state culpability in the massacre.

Hong Kong wants the Philippines to accept culpability without regard for what this means to the Philippines in terms of legal implications or sovereignty. The Philippines argues that culpability rests with the deranged man who shot the hostages and that the Philippines has been forthright in dealing with the incident. The Philippines investigated the incident and cited 15 officials who made mistakes during the attack.

Here is the odd thing. The matter was pretty much resolved three years ago when the Philippines expressed regrets and condolences and agreed to pay significant compensation to the families of those killed. The Philippines has also provided medical care to those injured.

This sequence of events makes clear the likely reason why the matter is flaring up again:

  1. Hong Kong bus massacre occurs; the matter flares and then is put to rest after considerable anger and negotiations.
  2. Philippines takes China’s claim to Philippine seas (Exclusive Economic Zone) to the UN court (ITLOS).
  3. Hong Kong rejects the City of Manila’s apology, then re-engages on the matter, amplifies its protest against the Philippine state, threatens sanctions, and begins to put them in place.

Some Filipinos argue, just apologize, get this behind us. JoeAm argues that Hong Kong is trying to dictate to the Philippines, presumably at China’s urging, and to bow to China would be like taking a back seat on the bus because the Chinese tell us to sit there. It would signal that the Philippines is weak and further encourage the arrogance and unbridled sense of entitlement that emanate from China.

The first step of sanctions is a new rule requiring that Filipino diplomats secure a visa before visiting Hong Kong. Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ling backed off from the Hong Kong legislature’s proposal that visa restrictions be slapped on ordinary Filipino citizens.

Given the attack mindset of Hong Kong, further sanctions against innocent Filipinos are certainly possible. It is conceivable that Hong Kong would freeze OFW entries, for example. And you can bet that, all along the way, Hong Kong’s shrill voice of condemnation will be raised, trying to portray the Philippines as a a hostile, unkind, international troublemaker.

But Hong Kong risks its own reputation if HONG KONG is seen as the hostile, unkind, international troublemaker regarding this incident. That would go far beyond the relationship with the Philippines, but with Hong Kong’s entire international representation.

“Stooge of China” comes to mind as the characterization that could emerge.

I have argued that Hong Kong, in punishing innocent Filipinos, would be behaving exactly like the hostage-taker who shot the Hong Kong tourists. Both the shooter and Hong Kong:

  1. Were (are) angry at the Philippine government.
  2. Would not (will not) listen to the other side’s point of view.
  3. Were (are) willing to punish the innocent.

Well this is all nasty business, the leveraging of a tragedy for political gain. But that is Hong Kong’s approach here. Hong Kong leaders – very likely at China’s urging – are not willing to grant consideration to the Philippines. They insist upon imposing their own justice on the matter. Frankly, it looks to me like Hong Kong (China) is in a mad frenzy to show those uppity Filipinos who is boss.

“Uppity” has a specific definition that is racist, and a generalized definition that is not: From the Urban Dictionary:

  • Word used by racist old white Southerners to refer to any black person who looks them in the eye. Usually followed by nigger.
  • Taking liberties or assuming airs beyond one’s place in a social hierarchy. Assuming equality with someone higher up the social ladder.

Well, either definition is offensive, and it is hard to tell which Hong Kong is using. Racially demeaning or that other nations do not command the same respect as China does.

What to do now?

A number of Filipinos have raised a cry to slap sanctions on Hong Kong, tit for tat. I suppose that would be aimed at diplomats as a first step, and then reciprocate on anything that Hong Kong did beyond that.

I disagree with that notion. We ought not descend to the low standard of Hong Kong but instead ought to strive for a certain dignity, and let that speak for itself. And for the Philippines.

Let me do what I do from time to time here, not to preach but to turn to the great wisdom of the Bible. The Christian sense of the peculiar kind of dignity I think the Philippines should strive for is expressed as follows:

  • Luke 6:29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.

The setting for the lesson is during the time that Jesus was teaching his values to His disciples. He was receiving a great deal of criticism from the Pharisees. He was considered “uppity” for doing such things as healing a man’s withered arm on the Sabbath. Jesus EXPECTED criticism for doing that which he considered right, and He got it. But He preached that His disciples should always strive for the high road of dignity, not revenge.

Jesus recognized that a disciplined man, a humble man, wields greater power than a scruffy bum always looking for a fight.

So I argue, let Hong Kong stew in its low values, its hostile treatment of innocents, and let’s walk on down the road. The high road.

Hong Kong defines itself by agreeing to tote the political line of China. It is a huge step backward from its prior standing as a jewel of multi-cultural, international engagement.

In the great scheme of things, Hong Kong – the state – is not worth our anger, or our revenge. And its people are wholly innocent. They are worthy of our respect. So I say, welcome Hong Kong diplomats and citizens to the Philippines as our guests. Warmly, as any visitor is welcomed in the Philippines.

I think the manipulative political milking of a tragedy by Hong Kong (China) is becoming evident and a backlash against Hong Kong is strengthening. Here’s what one Hong Kong critic had to say:

  • “If the HK’rs (Hongkongers) and the pathetic CY government expect an apology from the Philippine government, then I think CY should first apologize to the Indonesians for the tragic suffering…caregiver “Erwiana” suffered during her time in HK. Her suffering was a result of the incompetency of the HK system so CY should bear the full weight of the issue and apologize to the Indonesian people. If he cannot even do this, then there is no reason on earth why he can demand the Philippine government to apologize to the HK victims.” [Rappler]

In the meantime, it behooves the Philippines to develop a plan to bring the OFW’s home in case Hong Kong decides to take both our coat and our shirts.

In a way, further attacks from Hong Kong would not surprise me, for I have not seen one iota of dignity or respect for the Philippines coming from Hong Kong or China in a long, long time. And certainly one has to worry, given how artificial this issue is as a pretext for state-to-state conflict, what other incidents is China willing to instigate to make the Philippines look like the troublemaker? Will China provoke a conflict with fishing boats that refuse to heed China’s demand that those fishing boats get permission from China to fish in PHILIPPINE WATERS??

It is certainly possible. One cannot get much confidence that China behaves rationally. For sure, it is a strange form of leadership that provokes conflict and then casts the other party as the problem.

Hong Kong is best ignored. It is best to get on with our business and let Hong Kong define herself by her values and acts.

34 Responses to “Of Hong Kong and Dignity”
  1. Joe America says:

    Ellen Tordesillas expressed a view this morning exactly the opposite of JoeAm’s. She also quoted the Bible regarding “pride” being dangerous. Here’s the link to her article:


    She approaches the matter from the context of not liking President Aquino to begin with, and lining this up as another reason to condemn him. I approach it from the context of not liking China’s presumption that it is the only voice that matters in Asia.

    Which voice do you think is better for the Philippines, and why?

    • abe galon says:

      Hey Joe, I read the link you provided and I am not a happy camper. I reject the idea to brand this President and the country to be an apologist for something the state did not commit. Its a domestic terrorism committed by a fool. If evidence exists that the state is involved with the heinous act, then we should apologize.

    • cha says:

      Definitely on your side. And the Philippine government’s side. 100%.

      Ms. Tordesillas is either dense or just unfortunately blinded by her dislike for the President of her country so as not to be able to see clearly through Hongkong’s actual intentions in pushing the head of a sovereign state to apologise to a “special administrative region” of another country that has been trampling on the territorial rights of her own (Tordesillas’).

      She cautions her own countrymen against the deadly combination of pride, ignorance and power but fails to realize the same deadly combination is what drives her ‘friends’ from China and Hongkong in their quest to humiliate her country’s own government.

      Perhaps the word Ms Tordesillas is really looking for is hubris, and yes there’s plenty of that evident in this debacle, more so on the part of her Chinese comrades.

      Ms. Tordesillas should fly off to Hongkong soon, while they’re still not demanding visas from ordinary Filipinos. I suggest a day out shopping and making purchases from rude and arrogant HK shopkeepers. This way she sees for herself what a deadly combination of pride, ignorance and power really feels like.

      • Joe America says:

        You know, they are rude, from point of entry (Immigration) to the store counters. Hong Kong is one place where both Filipinos and Americans get sneered at equally.

        I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who believes that the “attack mode” of Tordisillas, against the President of the nation, is bad for the Philippines.

        • Mel NL says:

          Joe, I agree with you!

          • Joe America says:

            One of the things I learn by making these kinds of assessments that lead to a DECISION, and an opinion, is how hard it must be to be the President who has ACTUAL responsibility for what happens to OFW’s. It is one thing to cite an opinion, and quite another to take a stance that you think is best . . . with thousands of real lives on the line. That’s why I think some criticisms are simply too easy. Discussion is good, and examination of issues is good, but to attack someone’s character because they take a hard decision we might not have taken?


            I’m glad you agree with me..

    • Dee says:

      Read it and I like your version better. I do not believe that President Aquino has to apologize. That is the same strategy they are using with Abe of Japan. They want to diminish Abe and Aquino so they will look weak and incompetent as leaders. China is not handling its foreign affairs well. For China, this is an “unmentionable anatomical part” measuring contest.

      Watching Super Bowl. Sorry, but the Broncos are getting whooped.

    • ella says:

      Mr. Joe, Ellen’s ideas are ridiculous … why would the President of the Philippines apologize for the action of one man who was doing something for his personal gain. Yes, so be it PNoy has pride but I would term it more as self-respect and respect for the office he represents that is why he is not apologizing.

      • Geng says:

        And that is what’s lacking on Ms Tordesillas vocabulary – respect – because of her left-leaning views about almost everything democratic. The best thing for her to do is migrate to Hong Kong or to the mainland because she is not fit to reside here and be an attack dog of her Chinese patrons.

  2. Dee says:

    The Hong Kong (HK) Administrative Region has Hong Kong Basic Law, a constitutional document that governs its political system. This spells out that HK has a high degree of autonomy from China except in matters of foreign affairs and military defense. Below is the article in the HK Basic Law that states that the CCP shall dictate HK’s handling of its foreign relations:

    “Hong Kong Basic Law
    Article 13

    The Central People’s Government shall be responsible for the foreign affairs relating to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China shall establish an office in Hong Kong to deal with foreign affairs.

    The Central People’s Government authorizes the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to conduct relevant external affairs on its own in accordance with this Law.”


    I agree that “tit for tat” is not the right move. The demand for Philippines’ apology from HK is a CCP ploy. This mirror the incessant demand for apology from Japan. The CCP does this bullying to drum up nationalistic sentiment, distract the population from internal problems, and brainwash Chinese people into hating people who the CCP perceives as their enemies.

    • Joe America says:

      Thank you Dee for that information, which makes it even clearer what is going on. It seems very much that China is willing to risk the degradation of Hong Kong’s international standing to advance Chinese interests. I expect the people of Hong Kong to get upset if this pushes on. That is, if there are any left from the old days of distinguished international reputation.

      • Dee says:

        You bet a lot of HK Chinese are PO’d. The Chief Executive of HK and the members of the legislature are not very popular. The British did a good job in opening HK’s mind. The China installed government is suppose to govern for 20 years after the British hand over of 1997 but people are demanding for a democratic election ASAP. CCP promised a HK suffrage for 2017 but I do not know if they will keep their words.

        • Joe America says:

          That makes me wonder if the Philippines should get into dirty tricks and stir up Hong Kong unrest. Get HK leadership minds off Philippine affairs. Attack back.

          • Dee says:

            I believe in standing tall, doing the right thing and following law based resolutions. Surely, there are loopholes that could be utilized to “attack” China like your suggestion of having close alliance with Taiwan. I would also look into renewed alliance with other countries like South Korea, Vietnam, India, Australia and other ASEAN nations. I do not know without researching which ones have a mutual defense pact with the Philippines but Abe and Japan’s Defense Minister Onodera had been making rounds as far as Europe to solicit allies.

            • Joe America says:

              The Philippines is doing exactly what you propose, building closer defensive alliances with Japan, Australia, and South Korea. I’m not sure what paperwork is in place. I don’t know what the relationship with Viet Nam or India is, but those would be worthy states to be close to. Right now, I think there is a wariness in getting too obviously close to the Philippines, because it influences their relationship with China.

      • willy de perio says:


        • Joe America says:

          I’d save that for later when we get to mutual boycotts. I agree, in a commercial sense, Hong Kong has more to lose than the Philippines. I’d reserve that measure for use if Hong Kong gets ridiculous, like sending the OFW’s home. The Philippines CAN deploy sanctions, too. But it should not have to come to that if the pressure of rational people are brought to bear on Hong Kong leaders.

          • Tessa says:

            Why bother to go to HKG.. the Hong Kong Chinese they so rude to the Filipinos anyway…Lets go to Singapore instead. Let their goods hanging in the displays in the Ali Ali area in Central or Mongkok Market. They can try to send the OFW’s home and see the Hong Kong Working class family will go on riot. They must remember without the OFW’s they can not go to work and their kids has no more Filipina tutors. They have more to lose than the Philippines. Enough bullying..

            • Joe America says:

              Yes, I don’t understand why Hong Kong insists on being so shrill about it. My background comes into my thinking here. I can’t imagine America seeking apology from another state, say Mexico, for something like a botched police raid on some emotionally distraught Mexican who killed American hostages. It is just an unrealistic reading of a tragedy, to expect a state-to-state apology. Or the idea of starting to punish other Mexicans in the US who are working diligently. Americans would not stand for it. I’m afraid this is political game-playing and leveraging tragedy for political points is horrible. I’m wondering when ordinary Hong Kong citizens are going to turn against their leadership for being so disrespectful of both the tragedy and Filipinos.

  3. ella says:

    Mr. Joe, I really like the policy of Hongkong to impose visas for any Filipino going inside the territory, it means one more country off the list of Filipino corrupt officials and criminals to go and hide.

  4. brianitus says:

    I’d like to think that HK has more to lose than the Philippines, hence the sort of calibrated approach to this matter. But, using the Filipino people to pressure its own government in exchange for potential employment and guaranteed shopping rights? That was just stooping too low.

    Just some questions:

    Is HK leadership still sagging in popularity that they need this kind puffing-up? In Pinoy terms, what’s the HK EPAL all about anyway?

    In case HK really cancels ALL visa-free travel and decides to give hell to our OFWs there, are there any visible steps already being made by the government to mitigate its effects? I mean, if RP decides to call HK’s bluff…

    • Joe America says:

      Good questions. HK leadership is stuck between a rock and a hard place, I think. They must represent China’s ambitions, and they must cater to a population that is used to modern values and freedoms. Thus, the leaders are in an impossible predicament. They can’t exercise the peoples’ will, nor can they exercise China’s without difficulty. So that leadership is unpopular right now.

      Similarly, in foreign affairs, China tries to execute its authoritarian ways, and is offended when free nations push back. So the Philippines is public enemy number one for having taken China to UN arbitration, embarrassing China every time a Filipino envoy mentions the rule of law.

      I think the Philippines can only reiterate its view, calmly, that it is not appropriate for a state to state apology, and indicate the reasons why: legal liability and sovereign rights. They can also express to Hong Kong that punishing innocents would take the matter to a different level.

      At some point, I guess I’d argue for President Aquino to take the same outraged stance that Taiwan and Hong Kong and China take, and blast them back for failing to respect other nations in the region, and for behaving as terrorists using innocents to try to intimidate for political advantage. He’d likely say it more diplomatically, but that’s what is going on. And it is early for that. Hopefully there will be enough push-back domestically in Hong Kong that it will not get to that point.

      But I actually have no idea what official policy is or what the current talks with Hong Kong are aiming for. My palace sources are not keeping me up to date.

  5. Joseph-Ivo says:

    I feel that something in the middle is needed. An apology for the accident itself is not correct, but an acknowledgement of the poor handling of the case with an overview of concrete actions taken since then to avoid a similar disaster seem appropriate, for the Filipino’s and everybody else who wants to hear this acknowledgement.

    – Command lines from a lofty mayor over an incompetent vice-major, in the police hierarchy down to the people in the field.
    – The unbelievable press interference and absence of a save perimeter.
    – The public behavior promoting the bus full of fatalities into a favorite photo opportunity.
    – The amateurish special intervention team, bumbling up in every step.

    Just a few of the improvement opportunities. May be the government could use the Chinese outrage as trigger to do its own thing and inform the people of the current progress in all those fields. Facts, not fiction.

    • Joe America says:

      I agree the situation has been aggravated by the poor handling of the matter in the Philippines. But Hong Kong has needlessly stoked animosity by sending an insultingly demanding letter to President Aquino and organizing protests to fire up Hong Kong residents. Hong Kong could get more done by going into the back room with it and ending the intentional humiliation of the Philippine state. IF their objective were more compensation for those hurt. It is not. It is political. I mean, where is the simple readout of the tragedy in Hong Kong that the hostage taker was emotionally disturbed, and the situation like that is not one that can always be solved like a trip to the soda shop? Like school shootings in America or Russians dumping too heavy a dose of knock-out gas into a theater full of hostages, killing many of them. Man, shit happens when crazy people are going bonkers.

      • Joseph-Ivo says:

        “Shit happens when crazy people are going bonkers.” Also here I agree, except this was not “shit happening”, this was incompetence of the highest order. By a major threatening the brother to have him killed in Binondo with the cameras turning and the derailed man watching. A vice-major seeing an opportunity to show he was more than a simple actor, that he could even lead the whole army to war. An intervention force that saw a bus from close by for the first time. A press that could teach sharks how to be more lethal and a public enjoying a telenovela in real time with real blood and photo opportunities at the end.

        Sometimes answering a different question is better than ignoring the inappropriate one. Just for the families of the victims, they saw the ineffective and amateurish handling of the case too. Give them something, tell them that their relatives did not die in vain, that you learned some lessons. All they saw so far is that this time you did not elect a dirty Harry as mayor but a plunderer, that the public admired the macho behavior of the vice-major so much that he was reelected.

        Ignore the formal question but at least do something before it happens again.

        • Joe America says:

          We’d have to go over the incident step-by step, but it seems to me the Philippines did try to deal directly with those harmed, but that the condolences expressed were not up to par with what Hong Kong demanded. But the “state” of Hong Kong stepped in and rejected the expression of regret and condolences. Then there were a lot of discussions and the Philippines agreed to pay certain amounts, and the matter was tracking toward solution. But the matter to Hong Kong is not money, it is not compassion, it is apology. And that is a political matter.

          You argue that the mistakes in responding to the hostage-taker made the Philippines culpable in murder. I think it makes them incompetent in responding to a one-of-a-kind crisis, and culpability for the deaths rests with the hostage-taker. In a court of law, the case might be split into two parts. In the two parts, one party would be held guilty of murder, the other a different – a lesser charge. Perhaps the diplomats should be talking less about the apology itself, and more about what the Philippines needs to apologize for. The Philippines should not apologize for “murder”.

  6. manuel buencamino says:


    You said it, HK is a stooge of China. HK is a part of China, only idiots will believe that it is autonomous. All HK chief executives had Beijing’s blessing. HK takes orders from Beijing. Aquino apologizing to HK is like Aquino apologizing to Beijing’s hand.

  7. manuel buencamino says:

    I think the best response to HK, if it should institute extreme sanctions on Filipinos in HK, is to go straight for the hand behind HK’s demand for an apology. We hit back at Beijing by recognizing Taiwan as an independent country, open an embassy there. If HK does not want us then we can be friends with an independent Taiwan. Maybe that will encourage the other ASEAN countries that Beijing is bullying will follow suit.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, I think there are a number of steps the Philippines can take. Recognizing Taiwan would effectively end any relationship with China and might be a bridge that ought not be burned, unless that is the goal.

    • Joe America says:

      Fascinating, Cha. So the backlash in Hong Kong is growing more evident. I was not aware that the Philippines had decided not to retaliate against the silly Hong Kong sanctions, but I’m glad that is the position. Keep the high road.

      Thanks for the reference link.

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