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Chinese and OFWs rally in HK over hostage tragedy

August 29, 2010 7:15pm
Hong Kong residents from a wide cross-section of society, including political adversaries, marched on Sunday afternoon to show their anger and grief over the botched rescue attempt in Manila that led to the deaths of eight fellow residents.

Filipino migrant workers held their own program to convey their sympathies. No untoward incidents have been reported.

Filipino community leaders and Philippine Consulate officials agreed the simultaneous activities have so far been “peaceful", amid fears of tensions, even clashes, as emotions continue to run high over the tragedy.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents marched along the city’s streets past 3 p.m. Sunday to express their anger over how the Philippine government, particularly police authorities, handled the hostage tragedy.

Eman Villanueva, vice chairperson of the Filipino Migrant Workers Union (FMWU) which organized a separate event for Filipinos, said in an interview the “silent protest" of Chinese nationals started at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and will end at Chater Garden in Hong Kong’s Central District. reported that the demonstrators, most of whom wore yellow ribbons and carried white flowers, first observed a three-minute silence before starting the march, which is expected to cover at least three Hong Kong districts.

The Associated Press meanwhile said some 20 Hong Kong legislators led the crowd estimated by organizers at 80,000.

"Today's protest expresses our deep mourning and our strong desire for the Philippine government to take the matter seriously," Jasper Tsang, president of the Legislative Council, told the crowd, according to the AP report.

The protest march was organized by the League of Social Democrats, Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, Catholic Commission for Labor Affairs, and the Hong Kong Christian Council.

Organizers earlier urged participants not to vent their anger on Filipinos based in the city.

Solidarity program by Pinoy groups

The march was expected to end at Chater Garden, where Filipino groups are staging a program to express their sympathy with Hong Kong residents over the loss of lives in Monday’s hostage-taking incident.

“There is no tension among the Filipino and local groups here. The rally has been orderly. In fact, some of the participants are joining us here after the rally for the candlelight vigil," Villanueva said.

The separate program organized by the Filipino community in Hong Kong was a whole-day activity that included an interfaith solidarity prayer, where eight candles were lit in memory of each of the victims.

The program also included reading of messages from Filipino and Chinese group leaders, poetry reading dedicated to the victims, and a candlelight vigil.

Villanueva said some of the Chinese demonstrators went straight to the activity organized by Filipino groups, while at least three Hong Kong legislators have also delivered speeches in the program.

“As with Hong Kong residents, Filipinos here are enraged over how the Philippine police bungled the negotiations. We are also concerned that at this point, the government has yet to release conclusive finding and we fear that this will further fan the anger of Hong Kong residents," Villanueva said.

Apart from the local groups, Filipino organizations which organized the whole-day activity included the FMWU, United Filipinos in Hong Kong-Migrante, Gabriela-HK, and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-HK.

No untoward incidents expected

In a separate interview, Vice Consul Val Roque of the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong said the protest rally was “peaceful and orderly. Hong Kong nationals are sensible and fair-minded. We foresee no untoward incident happening during the activities," Roque told GMANews.TV.

He said several Catholic masses were organized in the different districts of Hong Kong, in honor of the Hong Kong tourists who died in the incident. “With majority of the Filipinos being Catholic, this is the best way to express our sympathy for the pain and suffering being felt by Chinese nationals over the tragedy," he stressed.

Roque said the Consulate has sent text messages to Filipino workers in Hong Kong urging them to be “understanding and respectful" of the demonstration by Chinese groups.

“Many Filipinos went to the parks this Sunday and we reminded them that as the march passes by, they should express their solidarity by standing up and offering their prayers.

A release posted on the website of the Consulate urged Filipinos to hear mass and join memorial services for the victims of the tragedy.

“Pinapaalala po namin na lahat tayo ay maging mahinahon at maunawain. Kung maari, sumama sa mga misa, memorial service o vigil para sa mga biktima ng trahedya. Mag-alay po tayo ng dasal para sa kanila at sa kanilang pamilya, lalo na kay Mr. Jason Leung na hanggang ngayon ay malubha ang kalagayan (We are reminding everyone to be calm and understanding. If possible, join in the masses, memorial services, and vigils for the victims of the tragedy. Let’s offer prayers for them and their families, especially for Mr. Jason Leung who is still in a critical condition.)," the release read.

Consulate officials will continue attending various gatherings to express condolences to the families of the victims and to the Hong Kong residents in general, Roque added. —VS/HS, GMANews.TV
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