How to stay safe during the Hong Kong protests

gelatoni fan

Mar 18, 2018
Instead of burying this at the bottom of the other thread, I've decided to put this here so the info will be at the top. Before scaring everyone, I will say that if you stay on site at a Disney hotel and only go to Disneyland, you should be safe. Even if you are out in Hong Kong, you should still be fine if you're careful to avoid areas where protests are happening. The chances of something happening to you are not high if you are smart and flexible with your plans but if something happens near you, you could be in a lot of trouble. Be prepared for transportation disruptions including flight cancellations and subway/bus system disruptions.

Now to the scary part. Police and gangs have repeatedly attacked protesters, journalists, medical professionals and civilians in multiple districts. Many police officers came from mainland China and will not wear any type of ID so a person in plain clothes may suddenly pop out to beat and arrest people. Tear gas, rubber bullets, bean bag rounds and other "nonletal" weapons have been fired at point blank range in places such as subway stations, residential districts and shopping malls. One woman who lost an eye after being shot despite wearing protective goggles and at least one person lost his front teeth while being arrested. Police may wear black clothes to infiltrate protester groups then start beating protesters and civilians with batons. Other police officers will place items such as sharpened sticks into people's bags and then arrest them for "possession of offensive weapons". Some people are arrested based on very questionable "suspicions" and in the 48 hours that they can be held, the police try to force some type of confession using both verbal and physical means (ex. shoving the person to the ground). Lawyers have been repeatedly denied being able to see their clients for many hours and some people are not being given bail. The airport is becoming a popular place to protest due to the lower likelihood of police brutality but this has caused widespread flight cancellations on multiple occasions.

This past week, a preliminary study conducted by a doctor and several medical students found the following symptoms in frontline journalists covering the protests after they had left tear gas environments:
  • 96% experienced respiratory symptoms
  • 73% experienced skin reactions
  • 54% experienced eye symptoms
  • 41% experienced gastrointestinal symptoms
The most common symptoms include dry mouth, runny eyes and skin redness. The most severe symptoms included coughing up blood, second degree burns, vomiting, pneumonia and longer term bronchitis. Basically, the tear gas being used (some of which may be expired) has many adverse health effects.

What should you do if you are traveling to HK
Other than stay away from dangerous areas, there are several things that you should do (most taken from protester manuals):
  1. Have your embassy/consulate phone numbers and emails saved. If you are attacked or arrested, file a report with your home country for assistance.
  2. If you have an iPhone, set up the app "Parachute". This company has graciously provided their app to free for people in Hong Kong during this time. With the touch of a button, it will contact all your emergency contacts and start recording and live streaming what is happening, backed up to the cloud, to be used as evidence and for emergency response.
  3. Pack a "tear gas" emergency pack. At a minimum, have a disposable N95 mask, a bottle of water and swimming goggles with you. Keep a couple large plastic ziploc bags in your hotel to keep clothes which have been exposed separate from other belongings.
  4. Always carry your passport with you. If you are searched by police and found without ID, you will likely be arrested.
  5. Try to avoid wearing black as that is the default color that most protesters wear.
Dealing with tear gas
If you aren't near the front lines of the protests, your main concern is accidentally being in an area that gets tear gassed. If you are able to get out of there quickly, this should be your first priority. If that is not a possibility, you should first put on your mask then put on your goggles. Once you are out of the gassed area, place all your clothes into a ziploc bag to wash separately from your other clothes. Wash your eyes with clear water if necessary and take a shower using cold (NOT HOT) water. Do not apply any topical creams or cosmetics when you have been exposed to tear gas until after you have cleaned yourself off. The same procedures applies if you have been in environments where large amounts of pepper spray have been used.

For your mask, there are a several options which will vary in price and level of protection. Make sure to buy them before leaving for Hong Kong because they will often be sold out in Hong Kong for obvious reasons.
  • Disposable masks: Surgical masks are better than nothing but are minimal protection. I advise getting an N95 construction mask as a minimum. Ideally, you would have a P100 mask but they are more expensive and may not be worth it just to be prepared for an unlikely event on a vacation. These will not stop everything but are a cheap option for an unlikely event.
  • Reusable masks: This is probably overkill to go out and buy just for a vacation but if you happen to have one at home, you will need filters which stop particulates, organic vapors and acid gas. A common inexpensive option used by protesters is the 3M 3200 mask with 3311K filter. Fancier gas masks by 3M will use two 60000 series cartridges.
Places to watch out for
The following is my personal ranking of the safety of various tourist sites (subject to change as protests continue):
  • Low Risk: Disneyland, Nong Ping + Buddha, Ma Wan Park + Noah's Ark
  • Low Risk but transportation passes through higher risk areas: Ocean Park, Outlying Islands (ex. Cheung Chau), Sai Kung, Victoria Peak, Stanley Market, Macau
  • Medium Risk (close to violent areas or had non-violent protests): Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon Park, Victoria Park, Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Lan Kwai Fong, Whampoa
  • High Risk (violent clashes): Near any police station or government building, Mong Kok (Includes Temple Street and the Ladies Market), Causeway Bay, Admiralty, Central, Sha Tin, Wong Tai Sin Temple, Tsuen Wan, Tai Po
High risk areas are not in a constant state of violence but be prepared to get out quickly if something happens. Clashes are more likely on the weekends and evenings. Any place can suddenly become a protest zone on short notice so stay vigilant. If the MTR is not accepting payment, check the news to see if it is due to protester non-compliance or police/gang clashes with protesters. If it's the former, take alternate transportion. If it's the latter, check what areas to avoid and be cautions while you are out. It is good to have extra money to book last minute accommodations in the unlikely scenario that areas near your original lodging becomes dangerous.
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Disney/Universal Fan and MALE
Aug 8, 2000
I was planning to be there next month, but thinking may need to cancel and re-schedule for another time. The idea of the airport completely being shut down at random doesn't bode well for vacationing!


Earning My Ears
Jun 14, 2018
Don’t wear black as it has been the de facto uniform for protestors. In fact wear something overtly American.

Was planning a trip in November but at this point I might cancel. It’s sad. I lived there for 18 years and this level of chaos and violence is unprecedented.


Earning My Ears
Jul 17, 2019
Don’t wear black as it has been the de facto uniform for protestors. In fact wear something overtly American.

Was planning a trip in November but at this point I might cancel. It’s sad. I lived there for 18 years and this level of chaos and violence is unprecedented.
Same with white as that's the color for pro-police. One of my HK friends also advised against wearing red/yellow (Chinese flag), but that's not as heavily discriminated compared to black and white.


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