'Suspects in shooting of China diplomats to be given immunity'

Manuel Mogato, Reuters

Posted at Oct 22 2015 01:55 PM | Updated as of Oct 23 2015 05:22 AM

Li Qingliang (second from left) , the suspect in a shooting of three Chinese diplomats, sits near his wife Guo Jing as he is questioned by police at a police station in Cebu City on Wednesday. Photo by Alan Tangcawan, Reuters

MANILA - Philippine police will hand two suspects in the killing of two Chinese diplomats to Chinese embassy officials because of diplomatic immunity, police sources said on Thursday, after a bizarre restaurant shooting in the central Philippines.

The husband of a Chinese woman working at a Chinese consulate in the central city of Cebu shot dead the deputy consul general and a senior staff member during a birthday lunch at the restaurant on Wednesday, police have said.

Consul General Song Ronghua was also wounded in the shooting. His deputy, Sun Shen, was shot in the neck and died. Li Hui, a female finance officer at the consulate, was shot in the head and also died.

The suspect was arrested and identified by police as Li Qing Liang. Li's wife, Guo Jing, who works in the consulate's visa section, was also held for questioning. Both requested diplomatic immunity, police said after the shooting.

On Thursday, national police sources said Li and Guo would be handed over to Chinese authorities.

"The couple ... are still in our custody but in view of an agreement between the Philippines and China, we would respect and honour their immunity," said a senior police officer, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

"We will defer the filing of charges against the accused and wait for the official announcement from the Department of Foreign Affairs," the officer told Reuters.

There has been no official comment about the incident from China so far.

Police are trying to unravel the different strands of the bizarre drama.

Rey Lawas, a police spokesman in Cebu city, said investigators believe the shooting could be the result of a personal grudge over financial matters between Li and Sun, the deputy consul general, or the woman finance officer.

"They have been at odds for a long time over personal finances," Lawas said, adding the fight "was purely personal".

Waiters at the Lighthouse, a popular Filipino-food restaurant, have told police they heard shouting from a private room but could not understand what was being said.

Minutes later they heard gunshots.

The senior police officer said investigators would also look into how the pistol used in the shooting had been acquired.

Another police officer involved in the investigation said the serial number on the weapon had been defaced and that it was similar to another gun registered in the capital, Manila.

"In Cebu, it's easy to procure a gun because of a large cottage industry for homemade guns," said the second police official, who also asked not to be identified.

China's state-back Global Times newspaper said in an editorial on Thursday that diplomats often worked in stressful environments. "The diplomatic service should not consider themselves to be immune to problems, nor can the public think in this way," it said