Hong Kong is a popular tourist and business destination, attracting 65 million tourists last year.
But as the protests that have rocked the city enter their 10th week, questions are mounting over whether it remains a safe destination to visit.
The protest movement, which kicked off in mid-June as a response to a much-maligned extradition bill, had been largely peaceful, with tens of thousands of people marching according to pre-planned routes approved by police. Increasingly however, many of those marches turned violent in the evenings as a minority of protesters remained, falling into a familiar pattern of riot police performing clearance operations using tear gas and rubber bullets.
On July 21, armed, white-clad thugs attacked people in the train station in suburb of Yuen Long suburb, prompting police to deny permission for a protest there a week later and restricting protests in other areas. But they have continued nonetheless, with some demonstrators besieging and vandalizing police stations, inviting a much more aggressive police response in return. As such, a number of countries have issued or raised their travel warnings for Hong Kong in recent weeks, on top of existing advice relating to transport routes and schedules disrupted as a result of the protests.
Hong Kong’s commerce secretary Edward Yau said at a press conference today (Aug. 8) that 22 countries have issued travel advisories issued for the city so far, particularly in the past two weeks. “Hong Kong remains a place that is welcoming to visitors,” Yau said, with clashes only in a “limited number” of areas.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of countries and their advice for traveling to Hong Kong.
The US was the second-largest source (pdf) of tourists to Hong Kong in June from outside the Asia region. The State Department upgraded its travel advisory for Hong Kong on Aug. 8 to “exercise increased caution”—a level below advice to visitors to reconsider or not travel to the city. It warned that though most protests have been peaceful, “some have turned confrontational or resulted in violent clashes,” and that while previous protests have followed routes with police permission, they are now often unpredictable.
The country’s foreign ministry raised its travel alert for Hong Kong on Aug. 7 to “high degree of caution.” In addition to the increasing unpredictability of the protests, the warning adds that there is “a risk of violent confrontation between protestors and police, or criminally-linked individuals, particularly at unauthorized protests,” referring to the appearance of armed thugs that have attacked protesters and/or regular civilians first in Yuen Long on July 21 and then on Aug. 5 in the North Point and Tsuen Wan neighborhoods.
An advisory from New Zealand also warned of danger from “criminally-linked individuals,” particularly in the New Territories area.
The department of foreign affairs on July 16 advised Irish nationals to exercise a “high degree of caution” when visiting Hong Kong, warning that police may deploy tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against protesters, though the protests have been “overwhelmingly peaceful.” The advisory warns that the downtown area of Admiralty on Hong Kong island and nearby districts “have been the focal point of demonstrations,” though the protests have spread to almost every district of Hong Kong in the weeks since the advisory was issued.
The South Korean consulate in Hong Kong updated its travel advisory (link in Korean) on Aug. 7, advising citizens that protests are likely to take place outside of pre-planned routes. It warned citizens that someone wearing all black and a face mask could be misconstrued as a protester, and that attempts to film or photograph the protests could provoke a strong reaction from protesters. Scenes of protesters confronting people taking pictures have become increasingly commonplace and heated in recent weeks, as protesters fear they could be doxxed or face arrest if they are recognized. The consulate also posted a schedule of upcoming protest actions.
A South Korean national was arrested by Hong Kong police on Aug. 4 on charges of taking part in an unlawful gathering.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its advisory on Aug. 7 for Hong Kong, warning of the “potential for significant violence.” It also noted that there has been a “heavy use” of tear gas by the police, even in residential and dense areas, when dealing with unauthorized protests.
United Arab Emirates
In a tweet dated July 27, the country’s consulate in Hong Kong advised its citizens against wearing black‚ the color typically worn by protesters, or white, the color of the clothing worn by the armed mob during the July 21 Yuen Long attack.
تنصح القنصلية العامة للإمارات العربية المتحدة في هونج كونج مواطني الدولة في الوقت الحالي بأخذ الحيطة وتجنب الأماكن التي تقع بقرب مباني حكومية وخاصة في فترات عطلة الأسبوع، ومتابعة الأخبار وتعليمات السلطات المحلية، وعدم ارتداء ملابس بيضاء و سوداء وذلك لما لها دلالة في الوقت الحالي
— UAE Consulate in HK (@uaeconsulatehk) July 27, 2019
The Mainland Affairs Council, which oversees Taipei’s relations with China, Hong Kong, and Macau, issued a warning on June 13 to citizens advising against (link in Chinese) unnecessary travel to Hong Kong, with that advice still in force as of July 26. Taiwan was the second-largest source of visitors to Hong Kong in June overall (pdf), after mainland China.
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