There is really no more gorgeous and exciting vibrant city than Hong Kong.
The skyline is a series with skyscrapers in steel and glass. It includes landmark structures that iced against majestic green mountain peaks in a rainbow of neon lights and silhouetted. Cutting through the center is Victoria Harbor, criss-crossed with small wooden sampans, busy ferries and container-laden super-ships, a daily reminder of the rich maritime heritage of Hong Kong. Tourists will find at their fingertips everything they might want from a city break. This includes stunning architecture, fantastic food, great shopping and nightlife. Type “Is Hong Kong …” in Google, and many of the autocomplete predictions of the search engine, are linked to the safety of the city and the ongoing protests. So, what exactly is going on right now in that country?
What is happening in Hong Kong at the moment?
It is important to remember that the difference between Hong Kong and other Chinese cities is significant. You need to look at its history to understand this. For more than 150 years, it was a British colony and part of it, Hong Kong Island, ceded to the UK after a war in 1842. Later, the rest of Hong Kong, the New Territories, was also leased to the British for 99 years. It became a busy trading port, and it became a manufacturing hub as its economy took off in the 1950s. The territory was also famous among migrants and dissidents fleeing due to the Mainland China’s instability such as poverty or persecution.
Then, as the 99-year lease deadline approached in the early 1980s, Britain and China began talks on Hong Kong’s future. But the Chinese Communist government argued that all of Hong Kong should be returned to Chinese rule. The two sides reached an agreement in 1984 that, under the concept of “one country, two systems,” Hong Kong would return to China in 1997. This means, Hong Kong would enjoy “a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defense affairs” for 50 years, while becoming part of a country with China. As a result, Hong Kong has its own legal system and borders and rights are protected, including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
It is one of the few locations in Chinese territory, for instance, where people can remember the attack on Tiananmen Square in 1989. This is the same place in Beijing where the army opened fire on unarmed protesters. Yet things change again as Hong Kong still enjoys unseen freedoms on mainland China, but it is declining. Rights groups blamed China of intervening in Hong Kong, citing examples such as legal decisions that excluded pro-democracy legislators. They were also concerned about the disappearance of five booksellers from Hong Kong, along with a tycoon. All of this eventually re-emerged in China’s custody.
Since June 2019, protests have shaken Hong Kong, triggered by highly controversial legislation to deport “Hong Kongers” convicted of crimes to China and Taiwan. Clashes over the months after police fire rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray in repeated attempts to crack peaceful demonstrations of protesters.
Is it safe to visit Hong Kong now?
If you are coming for the purposes of tourism or relaxation, you may now want to reconsider travel in the short term, more out of discomfort than any safety issues. This is because some tourist areas have been affected by the protests. But that’s not going on all the time. Unlike many protests picking up a core spot and reporting back every day, demonstrators were known to quickly shift course. Blocking an area for two hours is common for the protests, then being vacant three hours later. However, many tourist spots such as Central and Admiralty, Mong Kok, Tsim Sha Tsui, Nathan Road, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay which is one of the city’s most prominent shopping districts, have also seen many protests.
Although it’s not everywhere dangerous, visiting the nation is certainly not the best at the moment. The risk of danger is actually higher than usual, and at all times you have to stay alert. It is probably not going to be the ‘comfortable’ or ‘easy’ Hong Kong that you have imagined, nor will it be the worst. In fact, the city is feeling depressed and gloomy, and tangible tension is in the air.
What can tourists do when they are caught in the protests?
If you’re stuck, it’s best to find shelter in a nearby building or try to get out of the area through one of the many side streets over there. According to many news channels and officials, with the potential for violence especially during unauthorized protests, the situation around protests and public gatherings can change rapidly. So if you are in an area where protests are taking place, you should stay alert, follow local authorities’ advice and move quickly to a safe place if there are signs of disorder.
Hong Kong is one of the best cities in the world, with low crime rates and excellent medical and healthcare standards, even with current instability. However, this scenario does not seem to come to an end anytime soon, and it will be harder to achieve the easy-going fun feelings. Most top restaurants have been shut down and people are “waiting it out” at the moment. Hotels are almost empty, and a lot of tourists go somewhere else.
Although obviously much less pleasant than normal and it should still be safe for tourists, with frequent road closures, limited public transit and the obvious fear factor. As a tourist, a willingness to help bring the country’s tourism so badly needs is hard to balance with the happiness that you hope for as a tourist, which may be reduced.