Protests Escalate in Hong Kong

An airline conference was canceled as the destination experiences one of its most violent weeks.

Tensions continued to escalate between protestors and authorities in Hong Kong this week, following a shooting by a police officer on Monday of an antigovernment protester. The Associated Press reports that as protesters have taken over areas of Hong Kong, turning major universities into bases for militant protests, police riot squads have pushed back -- creating violent clashes, hundreds of arrests and the closure of major roads and rail networks.

The civil unrest has led to the cancellation of some meetings and conferences, including the Assembly of Presidents, which was to have been cohosted in Hong Kong by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines and Cathay Pacific on Nov. 21-22.

"This was a very difficult decision, given our commitment to organize this important industry event, but it reflects the unpredictability of the situation in Hong Kong," the AAPA said in a statement. "At the same time, the well-being of our delegates and guests has always been of paramount importance."

That said, as reporters for Reuters point out, it comes days after two other airline-industry events were held in Hong Kong successfully, the Airfinance Journal Asia Pacific conference and Airline Economics Growth Frontiers

In a statement, the Hong Kong Tourism Board said that most tourist activities continue as usual and that no tourists have been harmed throughout the duration of protests.

"Tourist facilities such as convention centers, hotels and attractions, such as theme parks, are not the target in any protests," reads the statement. "Flights to and from Hong Kong International Airport are operating as normal, and access-control measures are being implemented at the terminal buildings to ensure smooth operations of the airport. The HKTB maintains close communication with MICE groups in Hong Kong to keep them informed of the latest updates and provide them with all the required assistance at any time to minimize possible interruptions to their stay in Hong Kong, in the event that unforeseen circumstances arise."

The U.S. State Department reissued its travel advisory for the area on Nov. 14, which placed Hong Kong at "Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution."

"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," reads the advisory. "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."

The advisory recommends that any individuals traveling to Hong Kong monitor local media and transportation sites such as MTR Mobile and the Hong Kong International Airport website, avoid the areas of the demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of large gatherings. It also advises following the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong on Facebook and Twitter, having a contingency plan for emergency situations and "keeping a low profile."

The protests have been ongoing since June 2019, but this week's escalation has seen protestors blockading themselves on university campuses, setting fires and throwing gasoline bombs or other projectiles at police lines. Authorities have been firing tear gas and water cannons in response. Major retail districts and other areas have also been taken over by protesters.