Worldview Security Update – December 16, 2019
16-Dec-19

AMERICAS

Argentina (Security threat level – 3): On 14 December 2019, at least two assailants — accompanied by others waiting in a nearby vehicle — attempted to rob two British nationals outside the Faena Art Hotel in the upscale Puerto Madero area of the capital Buenos Aires. The robbers shot both tourists when they attempted to resist the robbery, killing one and injuring the other. Officers arrested four people after conducting 18 raids to find the perpetrators. Authorities are still investigating to determine whether the attack was random or if the assailants followed the tourists from the airport.

Brazil (Security threat level – 3): In the early hours of 16 December 2019, a group of eight gunmen attempted to rob a Bank of Brazil branch in the southern São Paulo neighborhood of Grajaú. The gunmen blew up multiple ATMs and used a public bus to block access to Belmira Marin Avenue, disrupting transportation in the area. Members of the group exchanged gunfire with police officers before fleeing the scene. Authorities temporarily closed Belmira Marin Avenue to investigate whether the thieves had left any explosives on the bus. Police officers have arrested at least one suspect in connection with the robbery.  

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): On the afternoon of 15 December 2019, demonstrators took part in “Christmas shopping” protests across Hong Kong and staged demonstrations in at least seven shopping centers, which ended in minor clashes between police officers and protesters. The most violent clashes occurred in Sha Tin, where protesters smashed glass panels in the atrium of the New Town Plaza mall and vandalized a number of restaurants. Riot police officers stormed the mall and deployed tear gas and pepper spray, then used batons to disperse the crowd; protesters threw projectiles at the officers in response. At least one person was injured after being sprayed in the face with paint. In Mong Kok, police officers deployed tear gas to disperse protesters gathered on the street, while at Telford Plaza in Kowloon Bay, riot police officers stormed the mall and engaged in minor clashes with protesters. Additional demonstrations took place at Times Square in Causeway Bay, Metroplaza in Kwai Fong, PopCorn in Tseung Kwan O, Cityplaza in Tai Koo Shing and Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui, although there were no reports of notable violence at any of these locations.

Earlier in the day, several thousand pro-China activists gathered in Tamar Park in Admiralty to show support for the Hong Kong police force and to condemn violence perpetrated by pro-democracy activists. There were no reports of violence at the Admiralty demonstration.

India (Security threat level – 3): As of 16 December 2019, protests in response to the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) are ongoing across India, including in the capital New Delhi, along with the cities of Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. On 16 December protesters gathered at universities across the country to express solidarity with students of New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university and Aligarh Muslim University, located in Uttar Pradesh state, after police officers clashed with protesters on the premises of these universities the previous day. In Lucknow, the state capital of Uttar Pradesh, clashes broke out at the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama after student protesters threw stones at police officers; there were no immediate reports of injuries. Separately, police officers forcefully dispersed protesters gathered at Delhi University. Officials have shut down at least six metro stations in New Delhi in view of the ongoing protests.

On 15 December violent clashes broke out on the premises of Jamia Millia Islamia university as several thousand students gathered to protest  the CAB. Police officers deployed tear gas and conducted baton charges to disperse the students, who had set fire to public buses, damaged campus property and thrown projectiles at officers. According to university officials, at least 200 student protesters were injured during the clashes.

Elsewhere in India, protesters blocked major roads and railways in Assam and West Bengal states. In response to the widespread violence, internet services in the northeastern states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura has been suspended until further notice. Meanwhile, on 14 December protesters in these states blocked several roads and railways, and vandalized dozens of buses and at least six railway stations. At least six people have been killed in protest-related violence since anit-CAB protests initially began in Assam state on 12 December.

Philippines (Security threat level – 4): According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), at 1411 local time (0611 UTC) on 15 December 2019, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck approximately 5 km (3 mi) south-southeast of Magsaysay, located roughly 60 km southwest of Davao City in Davao Sur province. The quake had an estimated depth of 28 km. Intense tremors were felt in Davao City and as far north as Cagayan de Oro. Several aftershocks were recorded in nearby provinces. Buildings in Padada and Matanao sustained significant damage, while a number of structures housing schools, businesses and markets collapsed. A number of towns in the region remain without power as of the latest reports on 16 December, as emergency crews carry out rescue and relief efforts. At least five people were killed and more than 84 others were injured due to the quake.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): Over the weekend of 14-15 December 2019, public transportation strikes against a proposed pension reform continued across France, causing significant disruptions to traffic. Countrywide services remain suspended, as only 1 of 4 high-speed long distance trains and 3 out of 10 regional trains are operating normally. As of 16 December, only the two Paris automated metro lines are running as usual, with limited services available during rush hour only; additionally, bus services have been cut by 50%. Unions have confirmed that strikes will continue until at least 18 December, with tens of thousands of people expected to gather across the country for mass protests on 17 December. Union leaders have threatened to continue their labor action during the upcoming Christmas break if the government fails to withdraw its pension reform proposal.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Lebanon (Security threat level – 4): On the evening on 15 December 2019, riot police officers deployed tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators near the Lebanese Parliament in downtown Beirut. Protesters responded by throwing stones and fireworks at riot police officers stationed behind metal barricades. At least 46 people were injured in the incident, with 14 people transported to hospitals. Security forces arrested at least one person for throwing fireworks at security forces.

Additionally, on 14 December security forces deployed tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators gathered near Al-Najmah Square, located close to the House of Representatives complex, after protesters attempted to remove perimeter barricades. At least 90 people were injured in the clashes which  began earlier in the day, when riot police officers fired tear gas to disperse supporters of the Shiite groups Hizballah and Amal Movement near Martyr Square and the Ring Bridge. Supporters of the Shiite groups had gathered at the site in an attempt to disperse anti-government protesters with stones and other projectiles. Following the violence in Beirut over the weekend of 14-15 December, officials have postponed parliamentary consultations regarding the formation of a new government until 19 December.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

China (Security threat level – 3): On 16 December 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Macau, which reads in part as follows: “President Xi is due to visit Macao on 18 – 20 December to join celebrations for the 20th anniversary of Macau’s status as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Travellers may face increased immigration and security checks during this period.”

South Pacific Islands (Security threat level – 1): On 15 December 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for the Solomon Islands, which reads in part as follows: “From 28 December 2019, to enter Solomon Islands you will need to show proof of vaccination against measles if you have travelled from or via (including transiting); Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and the Philippines. You must be vaccinated at least 15 days prior to arrival in Solomon Islands and you must be able to provide documentary evidence of your vaccination. Failure to do so may result in you being unable to board your inbound flight or deportation."