Months of protests in Hong Kong have made traveling 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 flareups:
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 Aug. 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 Aug. 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.
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 colors, 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
Here’s a list of websites to keep an eye on for further information and updates:
- Hong Kong police
- Hong Kong airport