Is it still safe to travel to Hong Kong amidst escalating protests?

Amidst Escalating Protests, Is It Still Safe to Travel to Hong Kong?

With Hong Kong’s anti-government protests spreading and growing increasingly violent, what does this mean for future travellers?

Tourism in Hong Kong continues to take its hit as the city is gripped by anti-government protests. Over the course of 2 months, the protests have become increasingly unpredictable and violent, with flame-bombs thrown at police, and police firing tear gas in return.

This unrest has caused a city-wide disruption – from long delays for public transport commuters to the cancellation of over 250 flights in and out of Hong Kong – and concerns for traveller safety to the city. Since July, a growing number of countries have begun issuing travel warnings for Hong Kong. This list includes, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.

hong kong

Image Credit: Flickr

Why are they protesting? 

The Hong Kong protests are centred around an extradition bill that would allow mainland China to extradite suspected criminals from Taiwan. However, despite the bill being tabled, angry protesters rage on, showing no signs of stopping. As a result, “Is it safe to travel to Hong Kong?” has become an increasing and frequently asked question especially on social media.

hong kong

Image credit: Flickr

Also read: In Light of Upcoming Airport Protests, Countries Including Singapore Have Issued Travel Advisories to Hong Kong

Which ‘tourist’ areas have been affected so far? 

Experts say that as long as travelers steer clear of the action, the city is still ‘generally safe’. According to Matt Bradley, regional security director of International SOS, it’s still safe to travel to the city, with the only issue being “more disruption than before”. 

While major tourist spots such as Victoria Peak have remained “relatively unscathed”, some protests (violence included) have spilled over into the city and other tourist areas including Central, Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, and Mong Kok. Popular attractions such as the Peak Tram and Star Ferry have so far been unaffected.

Is It really safe to travel to?

For the most part, Hong Kong should still be relatively safe for travellers, as long as they remain vigilant on their travels. The new Level 2 Warning from the US State Department equivocates the Hong Kong action to be of a similar caution as the daily life in London or Rome.  

Some security experts have advised to postpone all non-essential travel and to monitor the situation for another few weeks. As smaller-scale violent protests continue to pop up, this poses a risk to travellers who might not be able to recognize them as protests in due time.

 

Image credit: Flickr

Also read: Things to Do in Hong Kong: 3-Day Itinerary, Places to Stay & More

Nonetheless, it is clear that the protests are affecting Hong Kong’s tourism, with significant dips in flights to the city (after a promising start during the first half of 2019) and a decrease in hotel bookings as well.

Advice for Travellers

If you would still like to travel to Hong Kong, or if you’ve already made plans to go, here are some tips to note: 

  1. Avoid government buildings 

Most of the protests generally target Chinese Government buildings and Hong Kong Central Government offices. There are many parts of the city that remain unaffected – you could potentially visit the city and have no idea about the flame-bomb throwing protesters at some other end of the city. The August 31st and September 1st protest were predominantly in Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Mongkok, and Tsim Sha Tsui. So be sure to stay clear of government buildings!

  1. Avoid wearing white or black

Black shirts are usually worn by those protesting the extradition bill, while white shirts have been donned by counter-protesters. To prevent from being identified as either, we recommend wearing outfits of colour. 

  1. Avoid large groups

Tear gas is usually deployed on large group protests. So if you see a crowd gathering, walk the other way – especially if they are dressed in white or black!

  1. Prepare flexible schedules

Protesters have adopted a ‘whack-a-mole’ strategy where they do not stay in an area for long, but rather move quickly from area to area. As such, it has become difficult to anticipate their moves. To prevent from getting caught in the action, have a flexible travel schedule that allows you to move on to either your next or another destination should a protest occurs at your location. 

  1. Stay alert and be vigilant 

Protests can happen anywhere. Keep your eyes sharp and ears peeled for anything that looks out of the norm! Remember to monitor local sources of news or social media to keep updated with real-time information on the protests – so you know where to avoid!

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Gisele Woon

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