BALI, Indonesia (AP) — A journalist association is protesting the expulsion of Hong Kong reporters from a regional summit, saying they were treated like a serious security threat after they shouted questions at Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.
The journalists from Now TV, Radio Television Hong Kong and Commercial Radio asked Aquino at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bali if he would apologize to the families of victims killed in 2010 while vacationing in Manila.
Their questions were "placed on the same level as explosives," the Hong Kong Journalists Association said in a statement.
The reporters were banned from the event on Sunday. The group said they were placed under surveillance and stopped from entering their hotels the next day.
"This development borders on the absolutely ludicrous and the so-called security threat concern is totally unacceptable," it said. Another group, the Hong Kong News Executives' Association, said it was shocked by APEC's actions.
Col. Bernardus Robert, spokesman of the APEC Joint Security Command, said it had zero tolerance for any threats.
"We will not tolerate any possibility, even small, of threats against the heads of state," he said. APEC organizers, in a separate statement, said "this is not about press freedom."
The journalists approached Aquino on the sidelines of the meeting.
"Will you apologize to Hong Kong people for their real tragedy?" a woman reporter asked.
"Will you give an answer? It has been three years," TV footage showed her asking.
Aquino did not reply. Now TV showed an APEC staff member telling the reporters: "You ambushed one of our visitors."
In 2010, eight Hong Kong tourists and their guide were killed in a botched police rescue after being held hostage for a day inside a tour bus by a dismissed Manila police officer.
Aquino has expressed regret over the bloodshed but says he considers the issue closed. Victims' families are seeking an official apology and compensation.
Aquino met Monday with Leung Chun-ying at the Hong Kong leader's request.
"We explained, so we can understand each other a bit, in our culture, when we apologize, then it admits that we're at fault as a country, as a government, and as a people," he told Filipino journalists in Bali.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China supported Hong Kong's desire to stay in close contact with the Philippines about the hostage incident.
Gatot S. Dewabroto of Indonesia's APEC Organizing Committee said nine Hong Kong journalists' credentials were revoked for behavior that was "excessive, disrespectful and disturbing the event."
He said the decision was not due to a Philippine request.
Edwin Lacierda, Aquino's spokesman in Manila, said the APEC organizers took "appropriate measures."
Leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, along with thousands of business leaders, officials and journalists wrapped up meetings in Bali on Tuesday.
Associated Press writers Margie Mason in Bali, Gillian Wong in Beijing and Hrvoje Hranjski in Manila, Philippines contributed to this report.
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