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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Here’s what you need to know before travelling to Hong Kong

Months of protests in Hong Kong have made travelling to the city a potentially dicey proposition. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know to get around and avoid areas most likely to see flare-ups.

travel Updated: Aug 23, 2019 07:43 IST
Eric Lam
Eric Lam
Bloomberg
Months of protests in Hong Kong have made travelling to the city a potentially dicey proposition.
Months of protests in Hong Kong have made travelling to the city a potentially dicey proposition. (Unsplash)
         

Months of protests in Hong Kong have made travelling to the city a potentially dicey proposition for visitors.

Since June, repeated demonstrations have filled its streets, including marches estimated at a million or more people and a sit-in that shut down the airport. They were initially triggered by an extradition bill and later expanded to include demands for more democracy and the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam. There have also been violent clashes with police.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know to get around and avoid areas most likely to see flare-ups:

The Airport

The Hong Kong Airport Authority has introduced a series of control measures after protesters shut down the city’s transport hub in August, disrupting hundreds of flights. As of August 22, its advisories say:

Only passengers with a valid ticket or boarding pass for a flight in the next 24 hours and a valid travel document will be allowed into the terminal buildings

Passengers advised to arrive at the airport three hours before their flight to pass through control checkpoints

Others looking to accompany departing passengers or to meet arrivals should not go to the airport unless absolutely necessary

Protesters have called for a disruption of airport transportation infrastructure on Saturday morning.

Getting To and From the Airport

Airport Express trains from the Central business district experienced significant delays and disruption during airport sit-ins this month. If needed, alternatives include:

Hong Kong taxi/Uber (urban taxis cost about HK$370 plus additional fees to Central according to the Airport Authority, however prices will likely rise if there is any protest action around the airport)

These buses access major parts of the city during regular service hours:

A11: North Point Ferry Pier

A20/A21: Hung Hom station

A22: Lam Tin station

For a complete list of buses to and from the airport, click here

Using the MTR

Hong Kong’s subway transit network, commonly known as the MTR, has been targeted by protesters. Several stations were specifically hit by disruptions during a city-wide strike August 5, leading to suspensions and delays across main lines, so check for service delays before entering.

Frequent Protest Hot Spots

Several locations across Hong Kong have become focal points for protests as the unrest grinds on:

Victoria Park

Causeway Bay-Wan Chai shopping area

Main roads: Causeway Road, Hennessy Road, Gloucester Road, Jaffe Road, Lockhart Road, Johnston Road, Harcourt Road

Chater Garden in Central

Yuen Long and surrounding villages in New Territories

North Point and Fortress Hill

Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon area)

Nathan Road

Prominent Government Buildings

Protesters also frequently target key Hong Kong and China government buildings and landmarks, best avoided when demonstrations are scheduled. They include:

Central Government Complex: Central Government Offices, the Legislative Council Complex, and the Office of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong (in Admiralty)

Arsenal House, Hong Kong Police Headquarters (in Wan Chai)

Chinese government’s liaison office (in Sai Ying Pun)

Going to China

Some people crossing the Chinese land border from Hong Kong have been asked to unlock their smartphones so Chinese agents can examine chat messages and social media. Bankers who travel frequently between Hong Kong and the mainland are bringing along new devices or ones that have been wiped clean, Bloomberg reported.

There are also indications China may be restricting travel from Hong Kong to the mainland. A group of Hong Kong students was told in July their application to enter the country as a tour group was denied because of the protests, Bloomberg reported.

Travel Advisories

Multiple countries have issued travel advisories:

U.S.: Level 2 advisory level

Australia: High degree of caution

U.K.: Foreign travel advice

Ireland: High degree of caution

Singapore: Advised to defer non-essential travel to Hong Kong

Canada: Exercise a high degree of caution

Clothes Not to Wear

Multiple groups have developed associations with certain colours, including protesters and others:

Protesters typically wear all black, or at least black t-shirts.

An unidentified group of thugs clad in white t-shirts attacked black-shirted protesters and commuters in Yuen Long July 21.

Many involved in the protests wear face masks, including medical masks, to cover up their identities. Such masks are also commonly worn when people in Hong Kong are sick, but may be misconstrued

If You Get Tear Gassed

If you’ve followed all of the above suggestions and still find yourself in the middle of a protest zone, be on high alert for police taking action to clear protesters. Hong Kong police have so far used batons, pepper spray, rubber bullets, bean-bag rounds, and tear gas, while also demonstrating water cannon anti-riot vehicles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are the symptoms of potential exposure to tear gas (although these signs do not necessarily mean a person has been exposed):

Eyes: excessive tearing, burning, blurred vision, redness

Nose: runny nose, burning, swelling

Mouth: burning, irritation, difficulty swallowing, drooling

Lungs: chest tightness, coughing, choking sensation, noisy breathing (wheezing), shortness of breath

Skin: burns, rash

Other: nausea and vomiting

And here’s what to do if you have been exposed:

Leave the area immediately and get to fresh air

Avoid dense, low-lying clouds of tear gas vapor and go to the highest ground possible

If tear gas was released indoors, get out of the building

Remove your clothing, rapidly wash your entire body with soap and water, and get medical care as quickly as possible

Any clothing that has to be pulled over the head should be cut off

If your eyes are burning or vision is blurred, rinse your eyes with plain water for 10 to 15 minutes. If you wear contacts, remove them and don’t put them back on. Eyeglasses and jewelry washed with soap and water can be put back on

Put contaminated clothing in a sealed plastic bag, then seal that bag inside another plastic bag. Anything that touches contaminated clothing should be put in the bag too, including contacts

More Information

Here’s a list of websites to keep an eye on for further information and updates:

Hong Kong police

MTR

Hong Kong airport

-- With assistance from Sheryl Tian Tong Lee, Lisa Fleisher and Justin Chin.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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First Published: Aug 22, 2019 19:56 IST