Two Chinese diplomats shot dead in Philippines: police

Philippine police patrol the streets of Cebu (AFP Photo/Jay Directo)
Mynardo Macaraig

Manila (AFP) - China's consul general in the Philippines' second biggest city was wounded and two of his staff members were killed on Wednesday during a lunchtime gun attack at a restaurant, police said.

Two other Chinese at the lunch, a consular officer and her husband, were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the shootings, national police spokesman Wilben Mayor told AFP.

Officers retrieved a semi-automatic .45 Colt pistol and three bullet shells from the scene, he added.

Police said the attack occurred at 1:30pm (0530 GMT) at Lighthouse, a popular restaurant that serves Filipino food in Cebu, the trading capital of the central Philippines and the nation's second biggest city.

Staff at the upmarket restaurant told AFP a group of nine people had gathered in a private room to celebrate the birthday of the consul general, Song Ronghua.

Restaurant cashier Remedios Rivalde, 27, said she was at work at the cash register outside of the function room when she heard gunshots.

"I dived under the counter and covered my ears. Then there were other shots that followed," Rivalde said by phone.

She said the reservation had been made shortly before lunch for the consul general's birthday, and the group had ordered a banquet that included popular local delicacies such as tuna head, shrimps and roasted pork.

"They ordered a lot of food, but no liquor," she said.

- Bullet through the neck -

Song was shot in the neck, but his injuries were not believed to be life threatening and he was in a stable condition in hospital, regional police chief Tom Banas told AFP.

"The bullet went clear through (his neck)," Banas said.

Police identified his dead staff members as Sun Shan, the deputy consul general, and Hui Li, a finance officer.

Banas said the husband and wife were arrested without any resistance.

But he said they had not immediately co-operated with police, and so the details of the shootings and the motives were not known.

"They claimed they can not speak English. Maybe they don't want to give a statement," he said, adding they had a lawyer.

Lighthouse manager Stephen John Patero said staff did not see the shooting because only the guests were in the private room at the time.

But he said waiters who served them beforehand had heard the guests shouting at each other.

"They are all friends who apparently figured in an argument," he said.

Song was born in October, 1962, according to a biography published on news website Sina News.

He has been a career diplomat, joining the foreign ministry in 1987 then serving in New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong before his current posting, according to the biography.

A spokeswoman at the Chinese embassy in Manila, Li Lingxiao, said she could not yet comment.

"Our embassy is still verifying the facts. We'll update you as soon as I have anything new," Li said in a text message to AFP.

Philippine foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose also said he had no comment, as authorities were still determining what happened.