This week’s travel advisory warns readers of heightened security measures for those entering Macao and urges travellers to reschedule plans to visit India in light of protests against the Citizenship Act.
Macao – Visiting from Hong Kong
This weekend’s 20th anniversary of Macao’s handover to the People’s Republic of China has resulted in numerous security measures related to safeguard commemorative events, President Xi Jinping’s visit, and the fireworks on 22 Dec. Stringent checkpoints at air, road, and sea border crossings are likely to continue into next week. Visitors entering from Hong Kong should travel light in order to facilitate passage through checkpoints and avoid carrying materials related to protests in Hong Kong that could prompt entry denial. Permanent and non-permanent residents of Hong Kong should familiarise themselves with travel document requirements. The Hong Kong government issued a statement on 17 Dec in response to media enquiries concerning the jurisdiction of the Eastern Artificial Island of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge.
Hong Kong – Last Minute Christmas Shopping This Weekend
Possible security concerns before Christmas include skirmishes between protesters and the police (or between pro-government and anti-government individuals), as well as vandalism at MTR stations, malls and shops perceived as pro-China. If shopping this weekend, prior to leaving home check for late opening (or early closure) announcements on the website of the mall or store. Once outside, periodically check the Hong Kong Police Twitter for news about road disruption or police actions, as well as the MTR’s website for service disruption announcements. Shop and return home as early as possible, and carry a day bag with certain essentials.
Week in Review – Protests, Weather, Operational Issues
Protests and rallies throughout the world, sometimes violent, were common throughout the second half of 2019. As the year nears its end, several business and leisure travel destinations popular with Hong Kong based travellers vied to join this list of locations facing expressions of popular discontent. Most notable in recent days are protests in India against the recently passed Citizenship Act, which has resulted in violent clashes between police and protesters throughout the country including in Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi.
Crippling strikes and protests continued in Paris and other parts of France, with significant impacts on air and train travel. In Spain, protests migrated from the Madrid climate conference to Barcelona, as Catalan independence supporters clashed with police in a violent protest outside a soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Unrest continued in the recent “protest popular places” of Chile (though attempts at protest tourism received negative publicity) Colombia, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. A new member of the list is Bangkok, where the largest anti-government rally since the 2014 coup ended peacefully. Taiwan police fired over 100 bullets in an overnight standoff with the suspect in an attempted bombing of Kuomintang (KMT, or Nationalist Party) office in Tainan. Rallies to support President Donald Trump’s impeachment occurred in cities across the country, an early warning that impeachment and election related events will be a security concern throughout the United States in 2020.
In Australia, record high temperatures and bushfires continue to be a problem in Sydney and other cities. Air quality worsened in several cities in Asia, including in Thailand and India. The Pacific measles epidemic also continued to spread. Winter weather brought snow and tornadoes in the United States.
Airlines worldwide faced labour and operational challenges. Several airlines cancelled flights to France, though British Airlines averted a pilot strike. Hong Kong International Airport impounded Hong Kong Airlines aircraft, though it is not expected to impact operations as the airline had previously reduced its schedule; some labelled the action needless. The Garuda Indonesia Harley Davidson motorcycle smuggling scandal resulted in the firing of the airline’s president-director. Taiwan’s Far Eastern Air Transportation suddenly ceased operations, adding to its recent history of suspending then re-starting service (yet days later it was recognised by regulators for its onboard disease prevention efforts; cleanliness is next to godliness but not necessarily profitable). Taiwan’s Starlux (airline code JX) began ticket sales ahead of its January launch, with tickets available on its website for flights between Taipei Taoyuan and Da Nang, Macau, and Penang, and Tigerair Taiwan began to trade on the over-the-counter market.
Week Ahead – Reschedule India Travel, Australia Fires, Protests
In India, the level of violence and the number of locations for protests against the Citizenship Act continue to increase. Non-essential business and leisure travel to India should be rescheduled, especially for first time travellers who lack familiarity with travel arrangements within major cities. Authorities have resorted to intermittent disruption of Internet service which significantly increases security risks for travellers.
A state of emergency is in place in parts of Australia due to severe heat and bushfires. Updated information is available on the Bureau of Meteorology website, and travellers should prepare for flight delays both for inbound flights and travel within Australia.
Severe disruption to rail service in France is expected next week, along with flight delays and cancellations. Protests in Barcelona are possible following a court decision to bar a Catalan independence leader from public office. The Kuala Lumpur Summit of heads of government of majority Muslim countries might cause traffic delays and expect security checks at venues around the city. Departing leaders may cause delays at Kuala Lumpur International Airport at the beginning of the week. In Kaohsiung on 21 Dec duelling events by supporters and opponents of presidential candidate Han Kuo-yu will be held simultaneously.
Worldwide terrorist threats make more intrusive security questions and inspections likely. Crowded airports, trains and border crossings are likely worldwide. Travellers should travel light, carry a day bag with essentials in case of delays, and avoid offensive clothing that may prompt removal from the aircraft. Install the apps for airlines, airports, and hotels and check for updates prior to and while at the airport. We also recommend carrying hardcopy photocopies of your passport, permanent or non-permanent resident ID card, and visa (if required) to enter the jurisdiction you are visiting (along with a scan stored in your electronic device). A hard copy of these documents accessible to someone at home is also recommended.
Fortunately the forecast in the United States calls for good weather, though that also means it won’t be a white Christmas in many cities.
Hong Kong’s Security Bureau Outbound Travel Alert
The Security Bureau last updated its India travel warning in February 2019. With countrywide violent protests despite a ban on public gatherings, disruptions to Internet service, and the popularity of India for Hong Kong based business and leisure 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].
Printer: R&R Publishing Limited, Suite 705, 7F, Cheong K. Building, 84-86 Des Voeux Road, Central, Hong Kong