Business was halted in the bustling Asian financial hub of Hong Kong on Thursday in a three?minute tribute to eight residents killed in a deadly bus hijacking in the Philippines, as locals demanded answers for the tragedy.
Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang and hundreds of citizens bowed their heads as both the Chinese and Hong Kong flags were raised and then lowered to half mast in a downtown square in this former British colony now ruled by China. Residents elsewhere in the city also paused to pay their respects.
The carnage that ended Monday,s daylong standoff between the hijacker and police, broadcast live on TV, stunned residents in Hong Kong, a safe, affluent city that rarely sees violent crimes. Locals have expressed outrage at the Philippine government's handling of the situation, with Internet users heaping verbal abuse on President Benigno Aquino III.
The Philippines has promised a full investigation. The country's interior secretary, Jessie Robredo, who is in charge of the national police, has acknowledged there were problems with how the crisis was handled, including inadequacies in preparation, equipment and training.
Manila police Chief Rodolfo Magtibay has taken leave and four leaders of the assault team that eventually stormed the bus have been relieved pending an investigation. Officials have said the firearms used by 200 police commandos will be subjected to ballistic tests to see if some of the hostages were hit by police gunfire.
Mr. Magtibay was grilled by Philippine legislators on Thursday.
"It was band aid solutions as we went along, but the element of surprise had already gone," Sen. Miguel Zubiri said. "If you are a foreigner, you will no longer come to visit the Philippines because you have seen in the news that the police are not adequately trained."
"We have to show our friends in Hong Kong, we must present our friends in Hong Kong (with) a credible investigation of what had happened so that their people are safe to visit our country. We cannot whitewash this. We cannot sweep this under the rug," Mr. Zubiri said.
Mr. Magtibay responded that he 'honestly believed' assurances by his assault team leader that they were prepared and were carrying the right equipment for the operation.
The security committee of Hong Kong's Legislative Council was scheduled to hold its own hearing on the killings on Thursday afternoon.
Hijacker Rolando Mendoza, a former police officer seeking reinstatement after robbery and extortion charges he claimed were false, seemed amenable at the start of the crisis, releasing a batch of children and elderly tourists in a goodwill gesture. But a witness said Mendoza grew agitated as he watched TV footage of his brother, who authorities had allowed to speak to Mendoza, scuffle with police and the hijacker then opened fire on the remaining hostages.
"One wrong move by one person can destroy eight valuable lives and shatter many happy and fulfilled families. I can't help asking, " How can human nature become so ugly" leader Tsang said on Thursday.
The brother, policeman Gregorio Mendoza, who is facing obstruction of justice charges, apologized to the victims on Thursday.
"I beg for forgiveness from all those who were accidentally wronged by my brother. It really hurts that my brother died. I hope you will understand what my brother was fighting for," a sobbing Mendoza told ABS CBN television.
The bodies of the eight Hong Kong victims were flown home late Wednesday. Two wounded survivors also returned to continue medical treatment at Hong Kong hospitals.
Another survivor, Jason Leung, identified by Canadian media as a Canadian citizen, remained hospitalized in Manila after surgery on a head wound. Hong Kong's Acting Secretary for Food and Health Gabriel Leung told reporters late Wednesday that his condition has improved and officials may move him to a Hong Kong hospital as well.
Keywords: Bus hijack deaths