Shipping Out: Week in Review + Ahead – Floods, Smog, and Political Drama Continue

Flooding in South Asia has continued to threaten travel security and disrupt transportation, with the Indian states of Gujarat, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra particularly hard hit with the death toll reaching in to the hundreds. Flooding caused flight cancellations between Dubai and Kerala, underscoring the transportation disruption risk for international travellers. In recent days 53 people died in Myanmar from amid flooding and landslides and forecasts are for up to 250 millimeters (10 inches) more rain in the coming days. In Indonesia, smog from forest fires continues to shroud Riau, West and Central Kalimantan among other regions of the country. 

In Northeast Asia, Typhoon Lekima, after causing office and school closures in parts of Taiwan including the capital Taipei City and neighbouring New Taipei City, caused dozens of fatalities and forced millions to be evacuated along China’s east coast. Just one day prior to Typhoon Lekima reaching Taiwan, an earthquake off the east coast was also felt strongly in Taipei City caused one death. In western Japan, the impact of Typhoon Krosa began to be felt.

The recent arrest of foreign teachers working in China is the latest in a series of foreign citizen arrests that have attracted much international media attention, with arrestees including non-government organisation workers, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and teachers.

Weather events in Europe also caused extensive travel disruption. A rare tornado in Luxembourg caused a swathe of desolation and flash floods following rain storms in Switzerland resulted in mudslides and several missing persons. An anti-government rally in Bucharest attracted twenty thousand participants, though was generally peaceful. In Moscow, an estimated sixty thousand participants attended the latest in a series of anti-government protests, with a smaller event held in St. Petersburg

Following recent mass shootings in the United States, several countries around the world including Japan issued travel warnings.

The stabbing incident in Sydney’s Central Business District and the Norway mosque attack also served as a reminder that small scale incidents perpetrated by one attacker can occur quickly with fatal results.

Stay Safe In the Upcoming Week

In a recent press release India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences Meteorological Department best summarised the monsoon rain outlook for the coming days: Intense rainfall over central parts of the country. Travelers must remain alert to potential flood related disruption to air and rail transportation. 

Ongoing smog problems in Indonesia could reach Singapore, and travellers to Singapore should monitor the situation. For any air pollution risk, travellers should check air quality status and health warnings for their destination; travellers with respiratory problems should consult their doctor

Travelers to Europe should keep in mind the risk for weather related travel disruption, whether from a rare tornado or rain; the United Kingdom Met office recently warning that this could be the wettest August on record. Weekend protests are likely to continue in Moscow, and tourists visiting St. Petersburg should monitor the impact of protests on their itinerary and plan accordingly.

Following India’s decision to change Kashmir’s constitutional status, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan threatened earlier this week that the time has arrived to teach India a lesson. Amid independence day celebrations, security forces plan a more visible presence; however, travellers to large cities should be especially cautious at sites frequented by tourists, large public gatherings and rallies in support of government policy, all of which can be terrorist targets. 

We are also advising clients to monitor the recent Japan – South Korea tit-for-tat trade and other reciprocal retaliatory measures undertaken by Japan and South Korea in recent weeks. While much of the media coverage focuses on the technology supply chain impact and unresolved historical matters, we’re concerned that corporate facilities and individual travellers may become targets should nationalist feeling spread more broadly beyond government. 

The travel warnings issued around the world with regard to U.S. travel prompted a public response from President Donald Trump, who indicated that the U.S. will take retaliatory action against countries that issued the warnings and we are watching for how the State Department respond to President Trump’s instruction. Corporates and individuals who purchased travel insurance should review the policies for any impact that arises from these travel warnings issued by various governments. More immediately, extreme heat is expected in the southern United States over the coming days.

Especially during the summer months, university age children of Hong Kong based expatriates may travel or engage in casual employment in China. The recent arrests of young foreigners teaching English, whether for working without authorisation or due to possession / use of prohibited substances such as marijuana, should be brought their attention.

Travelers with flights booked on Cathay Pacific should monitor the impact on the airline’s operations in the aftermath of the order by China’s aviation regulator to prohibit staff charged with protest related crimes from working flights into China, as well as a requirement to submit crew rosters.

With Typhoon Krosa to strike parts of southern and western Japan this weekend, travellers should expect travel disruption and reconsider travel plans. Travellers who are already in the region should take usual typhoon precautions including remain indoors and prepare extra food and batteries, even if staying in a hotel.

Although security and other airport staff at Heathrow voted to delay a proposed strike scheduled for late August, we expect security concerns amid the summer travel season to cause long lines at airports throughout Europe and urge travellers to arrive at the airport earlier than usual.

Hong Kong Unrest: Safe to Visit

Recent days events include the use of tear gas in the MTR, demonstrations and a police response in areas popular with tourists such as Tsim Sha Tsui, and the airport disruptions. We reiterate our previous guidance: Protests can quickly morph from small demonstrations to a larger event, and residents as well as travellers must be vigilant throughout Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories. Anti-protestor elements might engage in criminal action against protestors as a form of intimidation, police frustration can arise from tension and fatigue; and the willingness of some to use petrol bombs or lasers all increase the risk that violence can escalate at protest sites and in areas that protestors pass by or congregate at away from protest sites or public transportation. 

In recent days governments around the world late to realise there is violence and disruptions in Hong Kong’s streets, MTR stations and airport joined Singapore and others who had earlier issued travel warnings. We encourage travellers to visit the websites of the government agencies that issue these warnings, rather than only read media reports about the warnings. Examples include Australia and the United States. The latter advises travellers to “be aware of your surroundings” and “keep a low profile”. 

We continue to recommend the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs travel advisory, for its timely updates, useful links to Hong Kong government agencies, and the succinct advice that traveller should avoid protests and large public gatherings, and to stay in touch with your family and friends so that they know you are safe.

We also reiterate that foreign national visitors and residents are not immune from arrest and should of course avoid attending protests out of curiosity.

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau Outbound Travel Alert

There are no changes to the Hong Kong Security Bureau’s Outbound Travel Alert in the past week. With the Security Bureau kept busy by Hong Kong developments, outbound travellers should consider familiarising themselves with other available resources such as the travel advisors published by other governments.

Does this column make you feel unsafe? Worried about traveling in Asia? Send your questions about travel security to [email protected]

Shipping out? Always check in first with our travel notice from SafePro.
Printer: R&R Publishing Limited, Suite 705, 7F, Cheong K. Building, 84-86 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong
Andrew Work

Andrew Work

Andrew Work is the CEO of New Work Media, publisher of Harbour Times.
He has run The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, founded The Lion Rock Institute and has over 25 years engagement in media, politics, policy and community engagement.
Andrew Work
Andrew Work the author

Andrew Work is the CEO of New Work Media, publisher of Harbour Times. He has run The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, founded The Lion Rock Institute and has over 25 years engagement in media, politics, policy and community engagement.