Warning Alert | Jan. 8 at 5:20 a.m. EST
Unrest over political reform, alleged police violence to continue in Hong Kong, China, as of Jan. 8. Localized disruptions, clashes likely.


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This alert began 08 Jan 2020 10:00 GMT and is scheduled to expire 29 Feb 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Political protests
  • Location: Hong Kong 
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Heightened security, localized ground transport and business disruptions, clashes; possible flight disruptions



Activists continue to plan demonstrations in Hong Kong to push for progress on political reforms and an independent investigation into police conduct during months of unrest, among other demands. Although the Legislative Council withdrew controversial amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, which originally prompted the protests, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has not indicated she is willing to meet any other demands, suggesting protests could continue indefinitely.

Protest leadership remains largely decentralized, but organizations and online activists continue to plan demonstrations that draw hundreds to tens of thousands of participants. The highest turnouts will likely occur at well-publicized marches, especially on weekends; however, unannounced protests are highly likely and could be disruptive. Lunchtime weekday protests will probably continue in the coming weeks, particularly on Hong Kong Island. Spontaneous rallies could take place throughout Hong Kong, especially in the central business areas of Hong Kong Island, such as Admiralty, Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay; popular tourist areas in Kowloon; and population centers in New Territories. Activists have also frequently targeted police stations and businesses that activists perceived as supporting the government in the territory.

Student groups are likely to continue demonstrations in front of various educational institutions, though authorities have significantly increased security outside of public universities following days of violence at several campuses in late 2019. Although the frequency of gatherings has generally declined, dozens of protesters could continue to participate in protests; higher turnouts remain likely following incidents of alleged police violence or clashes near campuses.

Chinese nationalist and pro-establishment groups also stage rallies in support of police and the government. While most gatherings remain small, larger protests are possible and could draw thousands of participants. Clashes between rival groups have increased in recent weeks and fighting between opposing activists is likely to continue. Reports indicate that individuals with ties to organized criminal groups have sought conflict with protesters.

Police have banned many recent protests due to security concerns, but activists often defy such orders. Authorities will continue to deploy security personnel to both announced and impromptu protest locations. Many recent marches and rallies have devolved into clashes, and violence is likely during future demonstrations. Fighting is most likely to occur if demonstrators attempt to gather despite police objections, surround or enter government property or police stations, bypass security cordons, or linger beyond approved protest times. Clashes between police and protesters are especially likely at unannounced rallies and near police stations and government offices. Police will likely use tear gas and water cannon during encounters; officers could also fire bean bag round or live fire as warning shots in the event of perceived imminent life safety threats. Protesters have started fires and thrown projectiles, including petrol bombs, during recent confrontations.

Several governments have issued or upgraded advisories warning citizens to exercise caution while in Hong Kong or to avoid unnecessary travel to the territory. As of early November, no countries have restricted travel to Hong Kong.

Protesters are likely to continue targeting Mass Transit Railway (MTR) operations and stations. MTR officials may resume preemptive station closures, particularly during sizable or violent demonstrations, to avoid vandalism and arson. Activists have gathered outside MTR stations to protest the company's station shutdowns, and similar actions are possible in the coming weeks. Demonstrators have obstructed doors and repeatedly pressed emergency buttons on trains to interrupt service. Protesters are likely to target the Island and Tsuen Wan lines, though activists have halted service on most MTR lines, causing disruptions of up to several hours.

Ground transport disruptions are likely to continue near demonstrations. Activists have damaged traffic signals near protests. Protesters have also sporadically blocked major roads in the territory, including the Cross Harbour Tunnel during previous actions in Kowloon. Localized traffic disruptions are possible near any demonstration; activists frequently erect roadblocks, exacerbating delays. Business disruptions may occur if protesters block roads near offices or seek shelter in shopping centers and commercial buildings amid clashes.

A court has issued an injunction against protests at Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), except in designated areas. Although demonstrations at HKG have not been disruptive since September, activists could organize further actions to interrupt transport to the airport. Demonstrators have called for several stress tests in the past, but most have failed to garner large-scale participation or cause significant disruptions.


Background and Analysis

Unrest is likely to continue in the medium term in Hong Kong. Despite the formal withdrawal of the bill that initially prompted protests, allegations of police abuse and neglect have fueled protests and violence for several months. Significant public support for protester demands will probably continue unless the government agrees to key concessions, such as establishing an independent commission to investigate the unrest. The government continues to propose that the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) carry out the investigation, despite the exit of foreign representatives citing the lack of IPCC authority to carry out an adequate investigation. The government has also failed to address the activists' other demands, especially calls for universal suffrage, and maintains that reform discussions will not occur until violence in the territory ends.



Avoid all announced or proposed protest actions due to the potential for violence. Exercise caution near likely protest locations. Monitor local media for protest activity, as organizers may not announce plans in advance. Consider working from home or early release arrangements on days when large demonstrations are taking place. Confirm the availability of transport, as rail and traffic disruptions are possible; allow additional time to reach destinations. Plan for increased security and localized transport disruptions near demonstrations. Follow all police instructions. Do not attempt to photograph or take a video of demonstrations. Immediately leave the area and shelter in a secure, nongovernment building if violence erupts.



Hong Kong International Airport: www.hongkongairport.com
Hong Kong Metro Transit Railway: www.mtr.com.hk