Worldview Security Update – August 20, 2019
20-Aug-19

AMERICAS

Brazil (Security threat level – 3): At 0530 local time (0830 UTC) on 20 August 2019, a gunman hijacked a passenger bus on the Rio–Niterói Bridge, which links Niterói to downtown Rio de Janeiro over the Guanabara Bay. During the event, the hijacker — who allegedly self-identified as a police officer — took 37 passengers hostage, doused the bus with gasoline and threatened to set it alight. Police officials stated that the gunman did not make specific demands during negotiations. A military police sniper shot and killed the gunman to end the standoff at approximately 0930 local time. There were no reports of other casualties. Traffic along the bridge was paralyzed and commuters were forced to evacuate their vehicles as security personnel responded to the incident.

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): At approximately 0130 local time on 20 August 2019 (1730 UTC on 19 August), an assailant armed with a knife stabbed three people at a “Lennon Wall” — an area where individuals may anonymously post messages in support of the ongoing anti-government protest movement — located in Tseung Kwan O in Hong Kong’s Kowloon area. The perpetrator attacked the victims, who were reportedly activists involved in the anti-government movement, following a dispute with them. Two of the victims suffered minor stab wounds, but the third remains in critical condition. Police officers arrested the assailant at approximately 1500 local time.

A number of protests are planned in Hong Kong throughout this week, beginning at 0730 local time on 21 August with a non-cooperation movement at Lai King, Kowloon Tong and Fortress Hill Mass Transit Railway (MTR) stations. Previous non-cooperation movements caused disruptions to MTR services, and disruptions are possible at the aforementioned MTR stations on 21 August. Additionally, a sit-in is planned at the Yuen Long MTR station between 1900 and 2300 local time to protest against an attack staged by organized crime groups against demonstrators on 21 July.

On 22 August students plan to rally from 1500-1930 local time at Edinburg Place in Central. Whether authorities have approved this protest is not currently known, nor is there any information available regarding the expected turnout.

On 23 August accountants plan to march from Chater Garden in Central to the Central Government Complex — which is located approximately 1.5 km (1 mi) to the east — from 1230-1600 local time. Meanwhile, Christian groups plan to gather at Chater Garden on the same day from 1900-2100 local time. Also on 23 August, protesters plan to form human chains along sidewalks spanning the Tsuen Wan, Kwun Tong and Island MTR lines beginning at 1900 local time. The lines cross through Hong Kong Island, New Territories and Kowloon.

There are unconfirmed reports that demonstrators may seek to conduct a “stress test” of airport traffic at Hong Kong International Airport (VHHH/HKG) on 24 August. However, there are no indications that protesters plan to gather at the airport. As a precaution, travelers should allow extra time to reach the airport.

On 25 August a protest is planned in Kwun Tong from 1300-1600 local time. The protest route runs from Hoi Bun Road to Kowloon Bay. Organizers stated that they expect approximately 4,000 attendees. A separate rally is planned from Kwai Chung sports ground to Tsuen Wan park, which is located approximately 2.5 km to the northwest, from 1430-2030 local time. Meanwhile, relatives of Hong Kong police officers plan to hold a pro-government rally in Edinburgh Place in Central from 1400-1800 local time.

Analyst Comment: Hong Kong authorities have not yet approved several of these events, and at present they should be considered tentatively scheduled. In addition to the aforementioned protests, impromptu demonstrations are also likely to occur in other areas of Hong Kong, and can result in violence. Clashes between protesters and police officers are more likely at spontaneous protests as well as following the conclusion of planned protests at night. Authorities have increasingly shown a willingness to use force, such as firing tear gas, with very little warning. Travelers should avoid all gatherings in Hong Kong as a precaution, and should avoid wearing dark clothing so as not to be confused with protesters.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Democratic Republic Of The Congo (Security threat level – 5): Daily routine activities appear to be normalizing as of 20 August 2019, following unrest during a “ville morte” (dead city) strike in several towns in North Kivu province — including Beni, Butembo and Oicha — on the previous day. In Oicha, motorcycle taxi services have resumed and small shops have reopened; however, large commercial establishments remain closed. While information regarding the status of commercial activities in Butembo and Beni is not currently available, there are no indications that unrest is ongoing. On 19 August a majority of shops, banks and gas stations remained closed and motorcycle taxi services were largely suspended in the aforementioned locations in response to calls by “Véranda Mutsanga” — an activist group — to observe a strike to protest armed violence in the region, concerns over unrest and roadblocks.

Disruptive street demonstrations accompanied the ville morte in the three towns where the strike was observed. In Oicha, police officers used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the protesters, who had erected barriers along a main road and burned the residence of a police officer. Three people were killed and several others were injured in the clashes. Meanwhile in Butembo, security personnel deployed tear gas and fired warning shots to disperse the protesters who burned tires and blocked roads, especially in the Bulengera commune. Police officers arrested a number of demonstrators, but no casualties were reported in Butembo. In Beni, demonstrators blocked roads throughout the town. Insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s northeast often prompts protest actions.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Myanmar (Security threat level – 4): On 19 August 2019, the U.S. Department of State issued an updated Travel Advisory for Myanmar, which reads in part as follows: “Exercise increased caution in Burma [Myanmar] due to areas of civil unrest and armed conflict. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

“Do not travel to:

  • Buthidaung, Kyauktaw, Maungdaw, Minbya, Mrauk- U, Ponnagyun, and Rathedaung townships in Rakhine State due to civil unrest and armed conflict.
  • Paletwa township in Chin State due to civil unrest and armed conflict
  • Hpakan, Momauk, Sumprabum, Tanai, and Waingmaw townships in Kachin State due to civil unrest and armed conflict. 
  • Hpapun township in Kayin State due to civil unrest.
  • Hseni, Hsipaw, Konkyan, Kutkai, Kyaukme, Laukkaing, Matman, Mongmao, Muse, Namphan, Namtu, Pangsang, and Pangwaun townships in Shan State due to civil unrest and armed conflict.

“Reconsider travel to:

  • Ann, and Myebon townships in Rakhine State due to civil unrest and armed conflict. 
  • Matupi township in Chin State due to civil unrest.
  • Bhamo, Mansi, and Mogaung townships in Kachin State due to civil unrest.
  • Hopang, Mongkaung, Namhsan, Nanhkan townships in Shan State due to civil unrest.

“The following areas of Burma are subject to civil unrest and armed conflict due to fighting between the Burmese military and various ethnic armed groups and militia forces.

  •  Northern Shan State
  •  Parts of Kachin, Rakhine, and Chin States
  • The Naga Self-Administered Zone in northern Sagaing Region

“Conflict-affected areas, particularly Northern Shan State and parts of Kachin, Rakhine, and Chin States are subject to land mines and unexploded ordinance. Land mines and unexploded ordnance have injured foreign tourists in conflict affected areas and their locations are often not marked or otherwise identifiable.”

The Travel Advisory can be viewed in full here .