MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Two Chinese diplomats in the Philippines were killed and the consul-general was wounded Wednesday by a Chinese attacker armed with a pistol during a birthday celebration at a restaurant, police said.
Police Chief Superintendent Prudencio Tom Banas said it was not immediately clear what prompted the attacker to open fire and kill Deputy Consul-General Sun Shan and finance officer Hui Li of the Chinese Consulate in central Cebu City.
Consul-General Song Ronghua was wounded in the attack and was in stable condition at a Cebu hospital, Banas said.
“This is really tragic,” Banas said by telephone. “We’re trying to find out what prompted this shooting.”
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A Chinese couple, including the person suspected of firing the gun, was taken into custody by police. The woman in police custody worked at the consulate and claimed diplomatic immunity, declining to immediately provide any statement to police, Banas said. Reports differed on whether the man or the woman was the suspected shooter.
A police report said investigators recovered the handgun used in the attack.
Police were in touch with the Chinese Embassy in Manila. Embassy spokeswoman Li Lingxao said Chinese authorities were still verifying the facts in the attack.
The victims and the attacker were attending a birthday lunch in a private room at the Lighthouse restaurant when the shooting occurred, sparking panic among other customers, Banas said.
Citing witnesses and video from a restaurant security camera, Banas said the attacker first fired at the consul-general and his deputy in the room. The finance officer ran outside the room but the attacker followed and shot her, and she slumped to the floor, he said.
Romel Bargio, a security guard at the nearby Mango Hotel, said he saw a Chinese man dash out of the restaurant after the shooting. The man told Bargio that he was shot and asked for help in getting to a hospital. He could not wait for an ambulance and took a taxi to the hospital, Bargio said.
“He was very pale. There was so much blood,” Bargio said by telephone.
Cebu, a commercial hub and tourism destination of about a million people, is 570 kilometers (350 miles) south of Manila. Chinese and Chinese-Filipino businesspeople have had a long presence in the region, with investments in trading, hotels, condominiums and restaurants, Mayor Mike Rama said.
While Cebu is a relatively safe region, the shooting offers lessons in how security should be improved, Rama said. He asked why there had been a failure to detect an attacker walking around with a gun.
Attacks on diplomats are unusual in Asia. In September a South Korean court sentenced a man described as an anti-U.S. activist to 12 years in prison for slashing and seriously injuring the U.S. ambassador last March.
Associated Press writer Oliver Teves contributed to this report.