China anger after 8 tourists die on hijacked bus

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Manila, Philippines
Of the 25 people on the bus, 13 of the Hong Kong tourists and four Filipinos survived. Nine of the survivors had been freed by Mendoza hours before the gunfire began.

On Monday, as negotiations to end the stand-off got underway, the outcome at first looked promising with Mendoza freeing nine hostages — six tourists, a Filipino photographer and his Filipino assistant. Fifteen tourists and the Filipino driver remained.

The situation later unraveled.

Mendoza was demanding his reinstatement to his job as a policeman. According to newspaper reports, he was among five officers who had been charged with robbery, extortion and grave threats after a Manila hotel chef filed a complaint alleging they falsely accused him of using drugs to extort money. Mendoza was fired last year but claimed he was innocent.

He was demanding a signed promise from the government ombudsman that his case would be reviewed, but its delivery was delayed for hours, in part by Manila's notorious traffic, and when it finally arrived he rejected it as insufficient, officials said.

Police made an initial attempt to board the bus after Mendoza grew agitated while talking to his brother and shot at a police sharpshooter, said Nelson Yabut, head of the assault team.

The Filipino bus driver later managed to escape and reported that Mendoza had fired at the tourists. Mendoza was then shot in the head, police lobbed tear gas into the bus and commandos stormed the vehicle by smashing windows and the back door with sledgehammers.

Police rescued eight passengers, but others were wounded. Mendoza and seven passengers were lying dead, one of them slumped on the bus steps.

"I hid under a seat (when the gunman started to fire)," Wang Zhuoyao, 15, told reporters from a hospital bed. "Then the police dispersed gas. People in the bus were struggling. I could hear that many people couldn't breathe."

A freed hostage who gave only her surname, Ng, told Hong Kong reporters that she saw her husband killed by Mendoza after he tried to subdue the gunman.

"He was very brave. He rushed forward from the back of the bus. He wanted to prevent the gunman from killing people. He sacrificed himself," she said.

She said that Mendoza at first "did not want to kill us, but since the negotiation failed, he shot to kill people."

Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said the hostage crisis would likely damage the Philippine tourism industry.

"We will have cancellations," he told AP early Tuesday in a Manila hospital, where some of the former hostages were treated. "I'm hoping it will be forgotten soon enough."

About 140,000 Hong Kong tourists come annually, he said.

"We will try to improve ourselves and assure the Hong Kong government and the rest of the world that we will be able to handle matters much better in the future," he said.

China warned travelers over travel to the Philippines and demanded answers Tuesday over how eight Hong Kong tourists were killed in a hostage stand-off in Manila following a day of botched negotiations.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said his government was "appalled" and phoned his Philippine counterpart to voice concern. Hong Kong residents expressed outrage and media there denounced Philippine police as incompetent.

President Benigno Aquino III presented to China's ambassador to the Philippines the preliminary investigation into Monday's hostage saga in which a dismissed policeman armed with a M16 rifle and a pistol seized a busload of 21 Hong Kong tourists and four locals to demand his reinstatement on the force.

The ordeal ended in bloodshed on live TV with police storming the bus and killing the gunman, 55-year-old Rolando Mendoza, after he fired at the tourists, killing eight of them.

Vice President Jejomar Binay and Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo will fly to Beijing and Hong Kong to present the final report to Chinese authorities once it is completed, officials said.

Philippine police defended their actions — pointing out that officers lacking proper equipment had risked their lives in trying to bring the stand-off to an end. But they promised to review all events leading to the deaths.

"We will look at whether what we did was right," Philippine national police spokesman Agrimero Cruz told The Associated Press.

Associated Press writers Jim Gomez, Teresa Cerojano and Oliver Teves in Manila, Min Lee in Hong Kong, Scott McDonald in Beijing, and David Stringer in London contributed to this report.

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