Increasingly, terrorist threats, major disasters and cyber security are becoming very real factors to consider when planning for international meets and events. In Asia, Hong Kong’s recent societal unrest have been going on for almost two months and showing no signs of abating.
What then for travellers who fly frequently to Hong Kong, or business planners who’ve scheduled events and face potential damages?
We speak to Noriko Takasaki, regional security manager Asia Pacific at International SOS – the world’s largest medical and travel security services firm – on her risk assessment of Hong Kong, tips on keeping your delegates safe, and practical handles to still execute a seamless event.
Protests could possibly push on for another three months
While an eventual loss of momentum and potential compromise are both possible, further escalation remains likely in the next three months.
Keep this list of protest-heavy zones, but do note, protests venue and timings are no longer as predictable
Avoid all associated gatherings as a precaution. As a rule of thumb, delegates can reduce their exposure to safety threats as comprehensively as possible by avoiding hotels close to police stations and government buildings.
We recommend staying closer to your work or meeting location so as to minimise any transport disruption risk caused by unpredictable events.
Likely protest areas:
- Areas around Hong Kong island e.g Admiralty, Central and Wan Chai
- Spots that have seen the most activity in these districts: Legislative Council (LegCo) complex, wider Central Government Complex, police headquarters, Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government and Charter Garden.
- Rallies are also increasingly expected in Kowloon, suburban areas and symbolic locations in the New Territories such as border areas with the mainland, e.g Yuen Long.
- Many protests over the past week have taken place around police stations, including those at Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui (both Kowloon), Kwai Chung and Tin Shui Wai (both New Territories).
Don’t count on weekend protests – it can happen on a weekday, too
The main impact for tourists and delegates alike is the disruption to transport infrastructure, such as intermittent suspension or delays to MTR services and blocked or congested roads during protests. Additionally, while large protests happen during the weekends, they are increasingly taking place on weekdays, and particularly on Fridays. The planned protests that lasts from evening till late at night usually attract high participation numbers.
Planners can proceed with travel into Hong Kong, but stay flexible
We are observing varied tactics of disruption, with the MTR services now targeted during the morning peak hours. This marks an increased need for travellers to adopt a greater degree of flexibility in their travel arrangements.
While travel can continue, employers and managers responsible for their mobile workforce should remain responsive to rapid changes in the security environment and ensure business continuity plans are up-to-date.
Some tips on putting a higher safety net on your Hong Kong event:
• Closely monitor developments and ensure you are apprised of any upcoming protests or flashpoint dates.
• Maintain close communications with the local office or host to reconfirm the status of transport infrastructure, such as MTR services and road conditions.
• Be prepared to arrange for alternate transport means at short notice, such as the use of MTR / taxis / hotel-arranged transport, depending on which specific transport infrastructure is affected. Anticipate delays and allow additional travelling time.
• Plan journeys bypassing affected areas wherever possible. If appointments are in impacted areas, reschedule the timing or location, or allow additional time for journeys if a decision is made to proceed with the meeting.
What best to avoid saying, doing or wearing in this time of unrest
Once in Hong Kong, International SOS recommends:
• Avoid flashpoint locations wherever possible.
• Maintain heightened awareness around the above locations and also at ‘Lennon walls’ (mosaic walls that have sprung up across the city in support of the protest movement)
• Adhere to all directives issued by law enforcement personnel.
• Avoid wearing black and white t-shirts due to the possibility of being mistaken for being a part of the protests.
Stay sharp; safety comes first
Do not approach gatherings due to the potential for clashes. Leave an area when protesters and/or the police begin to gather. In the event of unrest, where possible to do so safely, relocate to a secure location, such as your accommodation or office, and remain there until the situation has stabilised.