Australia has issued a travel alert warning of a risk of violence in Hong Kong. Travellers to the country have been advised to exercise a ‘high degree of caution’ due to violence between protesters and police.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that protests have become more unpredictable and are expected to continue: “There is a risk of violent confrontation between protesters and police, or criminally linked individuals, particularly at unauthorised protests.” It stated that travellers should avoid large public gatherings, monitor the local media and follow the advice of local authorities.
There has been a heightening of tensions between pro-democracy protesters, Hong Kong police and pro-Beijing groups. The protests began over plans that would have allowed extradition from Hong Kong to mainland China and have since spread to reflect broader demands for democratic reform. Zhang Xiaoming, Director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, spoke on the issue: “The central government is highly concerned about Hong Kong’s situation, and trying to study, make decisions and arrangements from a strategic and across-the-board level.”
Jason Wong Chun-tat, Chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said that tourism has suffered as a result of the violence: “The effects began to surface in June. Some individual travel agencies have reported a 30-to 50-per-cent increase in cancellations of mainland [Chinese] and south-east Asia travel groups to Hong Kong. The hotel and retail sectors expect a double-digit drop in tourist numbers in the second half of the year. The situation is worrying.”