The 20th anniversary of the reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty will occur on 1 July 2017. The events surrounding this milestone will notably include the widely anticipated visit to Hong Kong by Chinese Communist Party (“CCP”) General Secretary Xi Jinping.
This event, and numerous associated functions and celebrations will necessitate a massive security operation, one that will inevitably cause disruption to the normal operations of Hong Kong’s already busy infrastructure.
Businesses should be aware that in the days leading up to the commemoration and the arrival of the CCP General Secretary that the Hong Kong Police will deploy significant resources across the SAR, especially in the north Wanchai area. Any such deployment will cause significant downstream congestion in Central and the core business centre of Hong Kong.
Businesses planning conferences or significant or important events, deals or activities between these dates, should carefully reassess their plans. Disruption will also occur – hopefully in short bursts – on the airport highway, in the Hung Hom/Whampoa area, and elsewhere as VIPs’ move around the SAR under a huge security blanket.
SVA assesses the likelihood of a terrorist incident during the period to be low to moderate. Xin Jiang terror groups remain active on the mainland having struck in Guangzhou Railway Station in 2014 and March 2015. There is no current intelligence to suggest such an orchestrated attack is likely in Hong Kong. Nonetheless, the authorities will take no chances, and will be on a maximum state of alert through the visit.
Whilst the threat level is low in respect of a terrorist attack, the overwhelming pressure on the Hong Kong Police from both local and national government may cause something of an overreaction – and one that will, if not carefully handled, upset some members of the business community and the public.
Whilst the primary role of security is to protect key VIPs from harm, the police will also be under pressure to prevent “embarrassment” to the senior visitors. For example, measures to tear down banners on the Airport Road, Lion Rock or elsewhere can be anticipated, with a consequent impact on traffic.
Protests seem most likely on 1 July, (possibly including a low level clash between marchers and pro mainland organisations in the proximity of Victoria Park) but also in the days leading up to the handover events. There is little doubt that demonstrations will be smothered by an overwhelming police presence. Consequently, smaller, “hit and run” demonstrations, orchestrated through social media are likely. These may in turn result in an overreaction by government if not carefully handled.
The greatest threat of disruption to the business community, therefore, will come from an overwhelming police and security presence, which may create significant but short terms problems impacting daily business activities.
What to do
Businesses should now look at their corporate contingency plans, and consider the following implications:
- Road traffic closures;
- Difficulties in accessing office premises;
- Disruptions to scheduled events such as board meetings or marketing events;
- Briefings to staff who may be caught up in demonstrations or the police response to these;
- Difficulties in getting to or from the airport in the event of demonstrations at, or en route, to Chek Lap Kok;
- General delays and travel difficulties.
SVA is in a strong position to help companies understand the nature of risks relating to the current situation in Hong Kong, and to respond effectively to issues as they may arise.