For many years, Hong Kong has been ranked as one of the safest cities in the world. However, the recent protests in Hong Kong and unrest have raised some security concerns for corporations with employees and families deployed there as part of its international relocation program. On November 14, the U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory for Hong Kong from Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions to Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution. The U.S. State Department website advises the following:
Exercise increased caution in Hong Kong due to civil unrest.
Country Summary: Since June 2019, large scale and smaller political demonstrations have taken place in various areas of Hong Kong, including MTR stations, shopping malls, universities, and at Hong Kong International airport. While many demonstrations have been peaceful, some have resulted in violent confrontations between protesters and police – or between protesters and people who oppose the demonstrations – leading to serious injuries. Police have used a variety of crowd control measures, including tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons. On October 4, the government invoked the Emergency Regulations Ordinance to ban face masks at public gatherings. Any protests that take place without a permit are considered illegal.
Protests, which can take place with little or no notice at any time of the week, are likely to continue and are often accompanied by vandalism and/or violence.
U.S. citizens, as well as U.S. Consulate General employees, have been subject to a People’s Republic of China propaganda campaign falsely accusing the United States of fomenting unrest in Hong Kong. Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.
If you decide to travel to Hong Kong:
- Monitor local media, local transportations sites and apps like MTR Mobile or CitybusNWFB, and the Hong Kong International Airport website for updates.
- Avoid the areas of the demonstrations.
- Exercise caution if you are in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Keep a low profile.
- Review your flight status with your airline or at the Hong Kong International Airport website.
- Follow U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong on Facebook and Twitter.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Crime and Safety Report for Hong Kong.
- U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
The recent election brought a landslide victory for pro-democracy candidates. This has raised hopes for a more constructive dialogue between the parties and the return of calm. Should conditions worsen over the longer term, companies with a global mobility program might begin to explore other locations in Asia for assignments and events, such as Singapore.
When it comes to the duty of care employer obligations, duty of care dictates that in unsettled locations, companies must evaluate who is critical to local operations and determine the potential risk to those assignees should they remain in country. Companies usually repatriate or redeploy accompanied employees before unaccompanied employees. Of course, it is important for all companies with employees on global assignment to have an emergency and evacuation plan that can be implemented quickly should the need arise.