Protests in Hong Kong have entered the eleventh consecutive week as pro-democracy supporters have continued to throng the streets in a show of solidarity. As tensions have steadily increased in the region, travellers and tourists are concerned about their safety while travelling to and from Hong Kong. On Sunday, mass demonstrations were held with nearly 1.7 million people joining the rally. Violence has consistently escalated between protesters and the police.
What are the people protesting in Hong Kong?
Mass demonstrations in Hong Kong began as early as March and April this year, but it fully escalated only from the month of June. The protests started out against an extradition bill that was soon to be introduced. The extradition bill proposed updating the existing extradition law to allow extradition requests to be granted to a number of countries, including mainland China. The citizens of Hong Kong believe that the bill will allow China to have unchecked power over who they could put on trial. It would hinder democratic principles and curb free speech.
After weeks of protests the extradition bill was finally suspended, protesters however continued to demonstrate because the bill had not been completely terminated. The agenda of the protests soon began to change and the focus shifted to pro-democracy rights. Protesters were raising their voice against China’s tightening grip on the functioning of Hong Kong as an autonomous identity.
How safe is Hong Kong for travellers?
Protesters and the police have been engaged in violent clashes. Police officials have resorted to using tear gas and other dangerous tactics to control the protests and deter the citizens of Hong Kong. Despite their best attempts, the demonstrators have fought bravely, continuing to take to the streets to let their voices be heard.
During the last few weeks, protesters have blocked mass transportation and even called for a general strike. The Hong Kong airport had to cancel all departures because protesters had gathered at the airport. Airport functions are slowly returning to normal.
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【機場集會】機管局：今日餘下航班取消 公眾人士應避免前往機場 《逃犯條例》修訂風波持續至今，大批市民今（12日）響應呼籲，到機場抵港大堂參與集會。目前人潮已擠滿接機大堂，機場管理局下午３時半表示，受公眾在機場集會影響 ，機場運作已嚴重受阻，所有航班登記服務須即時暫停 。 機管局指，除已完成航班登機程序的離港航班 ，及正前往香港的抵港航班外，其餘今日所有航班已全部取消。 – #hk01 #港聞 #機場 #和理非 #一號客運大樓 #委任證 #機場集會 #遊行 #示威 #不反對通知書 #連儂人 #逃犯條例 #引渡條例 #反逃犯條例 #反修訂引渡條例 #反修例遊行 #獨立調查委員會 #五大訴求 #HongKongAirport #ChinaExtradition #ExtraditionBill #ExtraditionLaw #hongkongprotests 攝影：蔡正邦、袁澍
Moving around Hong Kong might be a task, as protesters hold demonstrations in various parts of the city. Further, demonstrations occur without any prior notice, so as a traveller, it is crucial to keep an eye out while moving around the city.
There have been no reports of any injured tourists or travellers so far. The police are only targeting the protesters who essentially set out to partake in peaceful protests.
What message does the Hong Kong government have for travellers?
Hong Kong officials have released an official statement explaining that the region “remains a welcoming city for tourists and investors, a safe place for travellers from around the world”. It emphasised on the fact that Hong Kong “has a long tradition of peaceful and orderly processions. However, in recent weeks, some protesters have blocked roadways, vandalised property and confronted police in unlawful assemblies. The Police will enforce the law strictly and resolutely.”
The statement also explained that travel agents, hotels, and business organisations are providing advice and making arrangements to minimise any possible disruptions to visitors.
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One of the world’s busiest airports, which was occupied by pro-democracy protesters for a fourth day, cancelled all departures after 4pm, with all passengers told to leave and the employees to go home with flights resuming on Tuesday. Protesters, however, were still there as of midnight local time. The protesters are currently wearing eye patches and bandages in solidarity with a woman reportedly shot in the eye by a police beanbag round. (?: Reuters, Getty Images)
Other countries issue travel advisory for Hong Kong
Despite the reassurance offered by the Hong Kong government, other countries have issued travel warnings, asking citizens to exercise caution while travelling to Hong Kong. Nearly 28 countries have issued travel advisories including United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan and Singapore. It is important to note that these countries haven’t asked travellers to avoid Hong Kong, they are simply urging visitors to steer clear of areas that are witnessing protests.
The best way to remain safe in the region amidst protests is to keep an eye on local media reports to monitor which areas are affected, especially at weekends when most protests take place. Steer clear of all regions where tear gas might fog the streets.
Are tourists still travelling to Hong Kong?
Tourists are still arriving at Hong Kong. None of the main tourist attractions — such as the Star Ferry, the night markets, and the Peak Tram — have been closed. However, continued protests will definitely impact the influx of tourists in the region. According to research, between June 16 and July 13, during intense demonstrations, flight bookings to Hong Kong from Asia fell by 5.4% on the same period last year.
There seems to be no definitive end in sight for the protests in Hong Kong.