July 22nd update: this article has been updated to reflect the spreading nature of the protests and the violent clash between Triad gang members and the pro Hong Kong democracy protestors.
Hong Kong is in the midst of change, as China seeks to gain a stronger political grip on the special administrative region, which puts the SAR in Hong Kong’s official title. Recent proposals have caused outrage amongst locals and outrage has lead to large scale protests around government buildings. In recent days, some clashes have seen violence. Naturally, all of the above has people wondering if it’s safe to visit Hong Kong right now.
The short answer: yes, it really is, but there are some things to know.
Arriving in Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok International Airport, you’d have absolutely no idea that anything remotely interesting was going on. Driving into the city, and getting to your hotel, you likely wouldn’t either. All of the protests and riots in Hong Kong are currently isolated to a very small section of the city, away from where the vast majority of visitors stay, and away from a vast majority of the things tourists would do in Hong Kong.
All the Hong Kong protests taking place in 2019 have been relatively isolated. Thus far, the only areas affected are: Admiralty, where the Central Government Complex is located, The Chinese Liason Office near Sai Wan and also Victoria Park, near Causeway Bay. These locations are on the Hong Kong Island part of the city, away from where most tourists stay in Tsim Sha Tsui, which is across the water. While the Central Government Complex shares some proximity with the Star Ferry Terminal in Central, the area is almost completely unaffected.
The Hong Kong Protests are centred around a government bill which would comply with a Chinese Government request to extradite citizens from Hong Kong to the Peoples Republic of China. With the wavering commitment China has shown to basic human rights, transparency, freedom of speech and fair trials, the move is widely objected. Hence, the protests.
Business As Usual Almost Everywhere, But…
Talking to multiple sources on the ground in Hong Kong, it’s business and travel as usual across most the city, which echoes our first hand experience during the riots inception. Trains are running, busses are moving and ferries are ferrying.
July 22 Update: Unfortunately, triad gang members, presumably sent on behalf of Chinese interests have attacked some of the peaceful pro Hong Kong democracy protestors, who are opposed to China’s increasing interference in the Hong Kong SAR region. To avoid being accidentally caught up in the fracas, avoid these areas and avoid wearing white or black near the protest zones.
If you have plans to visit the Peak, the IFC Mall or the delicious eateries on Stanley or Wellington Streets, you’d never know that any protests ever occurred. If you make the smart move to venture over to Quarry Bay or Causeway Bay, there’s no sign of anything to be found there either, other than great dumplings.
Hong Kong is one of the safer cities in the world, with low crime rates and excellent standards of medicine and healthcare. Unless you’re planning to join the riots or walk into the Central Government Buildings in Admiralty, Hong Kong is as safe today as it ever has been. It’s not even worth considering cancelling plans or anything to that extent. Just avoid these small radiuses and keep your wits about you. In a city as large and stunning as Hong Kong, it shouldn’t be too hard.
Will There Be More Hong Kong Protests?
Unless the proposed bill is removed, more protests are expected over national holidays, but again – these will likely be restricted to a one or two block radius around the Central Government Complex or any Chinese Government buildings. If you’re transiting via Hong Kong, stopping in for a few days or taking in the main attractions, you’ll likely never even know it, aside from dramatic photos gracing news publications.