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Hong Kong Civil Unrest

Peter Doherty 22 November 2019
22 November 2019    Peter Doherty

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Hong Kong Violence Map

Regional experts from S-RM's Crisis Management team assess the state of the Hong Kong protests and provide actionable personal safety advice and high-level guidance on evacuation planning.


  • Demonstrations in Hong Kong Island have predominantly taken place in the commercial and business districts of Central, Causeway Bay, Wan Chai and Admiralty, with incidents also increasing across the New Territories and Kowloon.
  • Many protests have led to clashes between police and protesters and have involved significant violence. Such demonstrations have targeted commercial and public service entities with ties to mainland China, and those who have displayed pro-Beijing sentiment. Protesters have also stated their intent to target pro-China business groups which do not explicitly condemn China’s perceived restrictions on Hong Kong.
  • Protesters have targeted a variety of assets for their perceived pro-Beijing stance. Recent assets targeted include commercial operators, universities and schools, and public transport infrastructure.

 Commercial Implications 


  • The Chinese University of Hong Kong has become a focal point for protests. Since 13 November, tensions have escalated, with riot police entering the campus to disperse demonstrators with teargas. Students have used bows and arrows, bricks, as well as incendiary devices such as petrol bombs against security forces.
  • On 13 November, violent demonstrations forced several Hong Kong-based universities and schools to close for the day. Whilst Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam states she will not officially suspend classes, further protests will likely result in ongoing campus closures and disruptions to education services. Nonetheless, some universities, notably The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (UST) in Clear Water Bay, and The University of Hong Kong (HKU) in Lung Fu Shan have unilaterally declared an end to their current semester, with students instructed to complete their studies online.
  • On 17 November, over 1,000 protesters barricaded themselves inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The incident subsequently devolved into a major standoff between protesters and security forces trying to clear the area. As protesters tried to flee the campus in order to avoid arrest, security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and sponge bullets against them. As at 21 November, an estimated 1,000 protesters have surrendered or have been stopped while attempting to escape the campus, although a small number of them remain inside.


  • Demonstrations commonly take place in business districts and shopping malls, increasing retail outlets’ exposure to looting, vandalism, and property damage. Protests have also prompted business disruptions, with some outlets suspending operations in anticipation of clashes between police and protesters.
  • Restaurants, take-away chains, bars and bakeries linked to mainland China, or perceived to be against the protest movement, have also been targeted by vandals. These include local and multinational companies. Similarly, restaurant operator Fulum Group Holdings have placed eight properties on sale after protesters vandalised its restaurants.
  • Protesters have also targeted banks, in particular Hong Kong-based branches of the Bank of China, which has suspended operations across a number of sites citing vandalism.
  • Opportunistic, indiscriminate looting also occurs during demonstrations, with commercial outlets facing an associated opportunistic threat of looting during incidents of civil unrest.


  • Protesters have vandalised and set fire to metro lines, trains and buses, and have prevented commuters from travelling. Several public transport services – including the MTR transport network – have been forced to suspend operations.
  • In August and September, protesters also targeted Hong Kong International Airport, although demonstrations predominantly manifested as peaceful sit-in protests, which caused disruption to airport activities. Protests at the airport have since abated, however, demonstrators have continued to disrupt access routes to the airport.


  • Stay alert. Familiarise yourself with the local environment, check the news and social media and plan routes in advance
  • Stay in communication. Have an agreed communication plan in place
  • Avoid large gatherings. Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place. Remain vigilant as protests can spread quickly to surrounding areas. Move away quickly from areas of civil unrest and take shelter in a safe place if there are signs of civil disorder
  • Practice good journey management. Plan your routes in advance, employ a trained driver if necessary and get to know the safe areas along your common routes. Expect road closures and disruptions to traffic and transportation in affected areas


A grab bag should include:

  • Photocopies of essential travel documents (e.g. passport and visas)
  • Details of your emergency contacts
  • Medical kit and personal medication, including a photocopy of your prescription(s)
  • Spare clothes
  • Emergency food and water
  • Torch; notepad and pen, and cell phone charger



The principles of a successful evacuation are:

  • Timely preparation
  • Timely decision making
  • Centralised control
  • Secure movement
  • Good communication at all levels.

Consider your evacuation plan and the triggers for evacuation you have in place, for example:

  • The US government changes its travel advice for Hong Kong, advising against all but essential travel (Level 3)
  • Protest groups issue direct threats to Westerners or international businesses
  • The violence loses its current clear and direct focus, becoming more indiscriminate in nature
  • The actions of the Hong Kong police force cause a fatality amongst protest groups
  • The actions of protest groups seriously injure or kill a police officer
  • There are signs of a systematic crackdown against journalists covering the protests in Hong Kong
  • The Hong Kong government imposes a curfew or tighter travel restrictions
  • Chinese soldiers or armed police are deployed onto the streets of Hong Kong from the PLA garrison
  • There are signs that prominent international organisations or companies are withdrawing all but essential staff from Hong Kong

HK Protests


  • Visit reliable websites to obtain the latest government travel advice (e.g. S-RM’s Global Security Insight website, UK FCO, US State Department)
  • Check your vehicle is serviceable with at least 1/4 fuelled
  • Ensure your phone is charged with credit installed
  • Establish check-in points and phone or text a colleague at each point
  • Know the safe locations and medical facilities along your route
  • Keep all doors and windows locked when travelling


  • Plan viable and safe alternative routes to avoid all roadblocks
  • Some checkpoints might not be clearly indicated
  • Remain courteous and comply with all instructions from official personnel

S-RM's Crisis Management team provides expert advice on matters that include reputational risk, evacuation planning and provision, stakeholder management and crisis communications. Find out more or request a quote by speaking to one of our experts. To discuss this article or other industry developments, please reach out to one of our experts.

Peter Doherty
Peter doherty Head of Crisis Response Email Peter

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