This week’s travel advisory column contains cautionary measures for Hong Kong’s upcoming district council elections, Australia’s wildfires, protest hotspots, and more.
Hong Kong – District Council Election and Schools Travel vs. Non-Essential Travel
For the District Council elections on 24 November, expect flash gatherings of protesters and attempts to disrupt transportation. Voters should stay abreast of polling station location changes, vote early, allot extra travel time even if the polling station is within walking distance, and carry minimal items on their person so as to facilitate quick passage through security checkpoints if any. Amid transport disruption and possible MTR or bus overcrowding, your own activities might prevent others from voting so be judicious in your activity choices and travel.
With schools re-opening we received inquiries from concerned parents about student travel. Students should not carry items such as laser pointers that could be considered weapons, review routes to and from school that pass through areas where protests occur, prepare for transport disruptions, know what to do when exposed to tear gas, and for extracurricular activities monitor developments throughout the day so as to prepare for sudden scheduling changes.
We continue to advise against protest tourism when in Hong Kong; this advice also applies to foreign residents of Hong Kong who are not permanent residents as arrest might impact their residency status. As one traveller learned this week, carrying protest “souvenirs” such as spent tear gas rounds through border control can result in prosecution. When in countries other than that of one’s citizenship, be aware that laws and regulations may apply to public events of a political nature, and there may be ramifications for participants in Hong Kong related events as evidenced by Singapore deporting Hongkonger Alex Yeung.
For those outside Hong Kong, our advice to delay non-essential business and leisure travel to Hong Kong remains unchanged. Event cancellations span corporate, sports and arts, and global; Hong Kong based airlines continue to announce reduced service to Hong Kong.
Week in Review – Fire & Water, Terrorism, and Man-Made Travel Risks
Fires in Australia’s eastern states and near to major cities that are frequent destinations for Hong Kong based business and leisure travellers have led to “catastrophic” conditions. Travellers should monitor fire risk as well as the significant haze and extreme heat. Emergency services and meteorology agencies provide up to date information via social media and websites.
Typhoon Kalmaegi passed over the northern Philippines this week, forcing thousands to evacuate, and Tropical Storm Fung-Wong’s periphery brought showers to northern and eastern Taiwan. Large parts of England remain flooded with conditions described as chaotic amid a slow government response.
In Indonesia, a recent suicide bombing at a Sumatra police station was followed by dozens of arrests with police stating the Islamic State-linked cell planned an attack in Bali. A drive-by shooting in southern Thailand was the latest in a series of incidents that may indicate an increase in insurgent activity, though Pope Francis’ visit to Thailand caused minimal disruption in Bangkok. In Israel, amid recent fighting with Islamic Jihad, an exceptionally powerful rocket fired landed in Israel, amplifying concerns about Islamic Jihad’s capabilities; travellers visiting Israel should be prepared for air raid sirens and follow the instructions of emergency services, security guards, or tour guides about where to shelter.
A “technical issue” at British Airways led to significant flight delays, the latest in a series of problems that include multiple computer failures, a pilot strike, and a massive data breach. A cabin crew strike at South African Airways disrupted service on its route network.
Week Ahead – Fires, Floods, Terrorism, Papal Visits & Thanksgiving
Going into the weekend, New South Wales was gasping under the worst levels of air pollution ever recorded as smoke from the fires caused a spike in hospital visits and hazards including poor visibility for drivers. A thick haze blanketed Sydney fires are burning in four states. Australia’s summer officially begins on 1 December and extreme heat, fires and haze are likely to continue.
With over 50 alerts and warnings issued throughout England, the United Kingdom Environment Agency’s director of flood risk management told media he is alarmed by the prospect of further flooding. Venice continues to suffer from floods, and conditions remain dangerous for tourists.
In France, the yellow vests (who recently celebrated their one year anniversary) claim to be in it for the long haul , and transit strikes are also threatened. Terrorist risk is also increasing in Europe with Turkey commencing the repatriation of Islamic State detainees to their countries of origin, a process it plans to complete by Christmas.
India and the Philippines were recently named on a list of the top ten countries most impacted by terrorism, with the communist New People’s Army – and not Islamist groups – identified as the deadliest terror organisation in the country, though a recent U.S. report identified the Islamic State in Southeast Asia as capable of mounting significant attacks.
Pope Francis continues his two country Asia trip with stops in Japan’s Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Tokyo. Although there may be traffic disruption and other security measures, Japan has recently set the standard for successfully handling large public events with the rugby World Cup, emperor enthronement parade, and Premier 12 baseball tournament.
In the United States, travellers should expect storms in the west and mid-west expected to exacerbate Thanksgiving delays. Airline cabin crew threatening strikes in the coming weeks include Lufthansa and Hawaiian Airlines.
Hong Kong’s Security Bureau Outbound Travel Alert
We’re disappointed that the Security Bureau last updated its Iran travel warning on 14 February and only considers recent events worthy of a yellow “signs of threat” (monitor situation, exercise caution) warning. Perhaps there is a reluctance to suggest that locations where authorities disrupt the Internet are unsafe.
Does this column make you feel unsafe? Worried about traveling in Asia? Send your questions about travel security to [email protected]
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