In this week’s travel advisory: protests continue all over the world, while a volcanic eruption in New Zealand’s volcanic has resulted in multiple deaths and missing individuals.
Hong Kong – Day Time Travel Safe But Avoid Large Gatherings
The number of participants in general strikes or weekday lunchtime protests continues to decline, which facilitates daytime travel within Hong Kong and Kowloon for businesses and leisure purposes. If larger events such as this past Sunday’s march remain peaceful, the police may continue to issue no-objection letters for such events. The rally planned for Thursday 12 December at Edinburgh Place to mark the half-year anniversary of protests is likely to be well-attended, with road and public transport in the vicinity affected. Skirmishes between a smaller number of protesters and the police, or between pro-government and anti-government individuals, remain likely following or separate from larger events. Vandalism at MTR stations and shops perceived as pro-China will also continue.
Recent arrests for handgun possession (along with knives, sabres, batons, pepper spray and firecrackers), petrol bombs thrown at the Court of Final Appeal in Central and the High Court in Admiralty, and the discovery of remote control bombs in Wan Chai that the police described as designed to kill and maim people confirms that those who threatened to use such measures (separate from what occurs at street protests) must be taken seriously.
Non-protest related violent crime such as daytime robberies of jewellery stores and money changers, as well as drug trafficking, is an expected outcome of this year’s protests as criminals test the resources of Hong Kong’s police, customs, and immigration departments. Visitors should avoid carrying large amounts of cash or gems, and request that a counterparty come to the visitor’s hotel for meetings.
Our previous advice to carry a day bag with certain essentials still applies to both residents and visitors.
We often end this section with a reminder that foreign residents and visitors should avoid protest tourism or involvement in protest related events as it may jeopardize their ability to remain in (or enter in the future) Hong Kong or other jurisdictions. It also brings publicity to the foreign individual and their employer as media outlets have an inordinate interest in reporting such stories. Recent examples include a domestic worker expelled due to an expired visa (amid accusations her occasional work as a journalist led to her expulsion) and a United States citizen arrested for assaulting a police officer. We urge tourists not to participate in protest tours despite the favourable media coverage this has received.
Week in Review – Terrorism & Protests Amid Natural Disasters Plague the World
The death toll from the White Island volcano eruption in New Zealand in a location popular with tourists will continue to rise in the coming days amid questions about the ease of visitor access.
Strikes and protests in Paris and other parts of France significantly impacted travel. Protests continued in Madrid during this week’s climate conference. Unrest continued in the recent “protest popular places” of Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Iraq, and Lebanon. Public protests in Iran may have abated after security forces killed hundreds of protesters.
Visitors experienced minimal inconvenience in London last week during the NATO summit, despite the shooting of a terrorist on London Bridge days before. The London and national authorities constrained NATO controversies to the politicians, and the summit passed without any major disruptions to transportation or other activities. However, a terrorist attack in the United States and arrest in Australia of an alleged Islamic State member for plotting a terrorist attack is a reminder of the ongoing risk of attack and threats.
In Australia, bushfires and haze continue to be a problem in Sydney and other cities, which might continue to burn for weeks. The Southeast Asia games in the Philippines will end this week after a generally peaceful event despite earlier concerns about event logistics and the simultaneous Typhoon Kammuri (known locally as Tisoy) that killed four and forced Manila’s airport to close.
Week Ahead – More Protests, UK Election, Global Terrorism Risk, Travel Attire
Travel misery will continue in Paris, and travellers should stay up to date on the latest English language traffic disruptions or consider rescheduling travel to Paris in the coming week. Protests will continue in Madrid until the climate conference concludes. Visitors to Europe should monitor for online calls by those who congregated in Madrid to move en masse to other locations.
The United Kingdom election is on Thursday 12 December though it is not a holiday despite the Labour Party’s attempts to make it one. Snow is also possible in parts of the country. Although UK elections are generally peaceful, we discourage foreign visitors from attending pre-election rallies or post-election celebrations. As with other large public gatherings during the holiday season, post-election celebrations are also terrorist targets.
Rallies in Myanmar or at The Hague are possible amid popular domestic support for Myanmar’s government as it begins its defense at the International Criminal Court to charges of genocide against minority Muslim Rohingya. Authorities in Thailand recently detained the wife and children of an Arakan Army leader and appear set to deport them to Myanmar where she faces prosecution; this may result in the AA, an ethnic Rakhine militia that has increased the scope and frequency of its attacks throughout Myanmar recently, to increase the tempo of its operations. As with travel to Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia this holiday season, travellers to Myanmar should familiarise themselves with the current risk assessments for separatist or terrorist attacks.
Travel disruptions in the coming days are also expected due to industrial action and financial woes. South Africa Airways recently entered into “business rescue” procedures in order to restructure its operations and debts, and Hong Kong Airways received a loan that media charitably described a last-minute fix to stay afloat. Australia’s Jetstar is considering January flight cancellations to deal with a pilot strike, but first must manage delays and cancelations due to this week’s IT outage and ground crew industrial action. Airport worker strikes in France will cause delays throughout Europe.
Amid concerns about terrorist risk, gate and in-flight personnel have little tolerance for offensive or threatening messages on passenger attire, as evidenced by the recent removal of a passenger for wearing a Hail Satan t-shirt. Although the airline apologised to the passenger, others inconvenienced by the incident might wish a pox on both the passenger and the airline’s houses, so we suggest non-controversial attire for both domestic and international travel.
Hong Kong’s Security Bureau Outbound Travel Alert
Oh, la vache! The Security Bureau last updated its France travel warning in December 2018. With recent travel disruption and potential for more violence, as well as France’s popularity amongst Hong Kong-based travellers, an update might be timely.
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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