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Hong Kong angry, sad at handling of Manila siege

By Greg Hughes and Kevin Voigt, CNN
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Hong Kong issues Philippine travel warning
  • Hong Kong leader expresses "disappointment" in the handling of the crisis
  • Hong Kong residents question the "indecisiveness" of Manila police in storming the gunman
  • Hong Kong government sends black signal warning to "avoid all travel" to the Philippines
  • Hong Kong's Filipino community fear anger at Manila's handling of crisis could cause a backlash

Hong Kong, China (CNN) -- The hostage crisis in Manila that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead has generated sorrow and anger as well as raised many questions over the handling of the situation by the Filipino authorities.

"This is a serious blow to Hong Kong people. We all feel very devastated," Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang told a press conference Tuesday, saying that the government would soon announce community mourning events.

In local media, under the headline "Tsang slams siege tactics," the South China Morning Post highlighted Donald Tsang's "disappointment" over the handling of the crisis, reporting that he was close to tears during a press conference.

The Standard reported that "hundreds of Hong Kong residents expressed disbelief and disappointment in discussion forums and on Facebook, saying the police officers were overcautious, if not slow, to storm the bus."

Video: Tour bus hostage nightmare
Video: Inside the mind of a hostage
Video: Hostage drama in Philippines
Video: Hostage taker sprayed weapons fire
  • Hong Kong
  • China
  • Manila
  • Philippines

"Is there only one ax in the Philippines?" "Why didn't the police shoot the gunman earlier?" said one comment posted in a forum, The Standard reported.

Another Facebook page asked people to wear black on Tuesday to mourn the dead.

An editorial in The Standard also questioned the approach of the rescue operation, noting that an "entire hour" passed from the time the police tried to break into the bus to the time the gunman was declared dead.

Joesph Tung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said: "Watching on the live broadcast, a lot of people here in Hong Kong are very much furious about the action from the Philippine police."

With Hong Kong residents watching the events unfold live with the rest of the world, its bloody conclusion has ratcheted frustrations with the Philippine government.

"As we were watching this, in the beginning it seemed his demands were very simple and everything was very easy going ... you never thought it would come out like this," Tung said.

The Hong Kong government put up a black signal warning to "avoid all travel" to the Philippines, its most severe warning.

The last time Hong Kong issued a black alert was for travel to Bangkok during violent protests there earlier this year, Tung said.

There are currently three other tour groups from Hong Kong traveling in the Philippines with about 60 people, Tung said. All are expected to return home Tuesday.

Tung thinks the bloodshed will undoubtedly hurt Hong Kong travel to the Philippines, where the beaches of Cebu are especially popular for local travelers.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Jesus A Verzosa said a committee looking into the handling of the hostage incident will seek to determine if there were lapses on the part of the police unit or the crisis committee involved.

"We offer our deepest sympathy to the families of the deceased even as we extend a helping hand to the wounded victims and other survivors of this ordeal. But at this point, we do not want to pass sweeping judgment or make early conclusions except to say that our intention to peacefully end this hostage drama was spoiled when the hostage-taker suddenly exhibited violent behavior and began shooting the hostages," Verzosa said.

However, a PNP spokesman has already outlined some observations on the management of the crisis, including poor handling of the hostage negotiation; the assault team's inadequate skills, equipment and planning; and poor crowd control.

On Tuesday, members of the local Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) political party held a protest at the Consulate General of the Philippines, chanting: "We protest against the police. There rescue efforts were incompetent."

There were fears among the Filipino community in Hong Kong that anger at Manila's handling of the hostage drama could cause a backlash against those living in Hong Kong.

"We have to make clear our position on the issue; that this is not something about Filipinos against Chinese or Chinese against Filipinos," said Eman Villanueva, executive director of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, an umbrella group that represents migrants working in the southern Chinese enclave.

About 150,000 Filipinos live and work in Hong Kong, the majority of which are employed as domestic helpers, said Villanueva.

"The United Filipinos in Hong Kong condoles with the families in Hong Kong of those who died and sympathizes with the other victims who got out safely but were surely traumatized by the tragic event of the past hours," the group said in a statement.

"Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong are appalled by this crime and greatly saddened by its ending."

Some employers have told Filipino workers to stay at home today to avoid any potential conflicts, Villanueva said, but his group has not received any reports of actions against Philippine nationals working in Hong Kong.