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

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): Anti-government protests are scheduled to continue in Hong Kong from 20- 22 December 2019. Between 1300 and 1430 local time (0500 and 0630 UTC) on 20 December lunch hour protests are set to occur in Cheung Sha Wan, Lai Chi Kok, Kwun Tong, San Po Kong, Kowloon Bay and Wong Chuk Hang. Beginning at 1500 local time, protesters are expected to gather in Tseung Kwan O to mark the three month anniversary of a protester’s death. At 2000 local time, protesters are expected to gather at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre in support of arrested demonstrators being held at the facility.

On 21 December an assembly is scheduled to take place from 1300-1700 local time at Edinburgh Place in Central. Additionally, a demonstration is expected to begin at 1500 local time at the Yoho Mall in Yuen Long to protest the 21 July attacks that suspected members of organized crime groups perpetrated against protesters and commuters at Yuen Long MTR station. Authorities shut down the mall and adjacent Yuen Long MTR station during previous “7/21” demonstrations and will likely do so for the upcoming event.

Beginning at 1530 local time on 22 December demonstrators plan to gather at Edinburgh Place to show solidarity with Uighur Muslims in China.

In related developments, on 19 December a protest march organized by social welfare workers on the final day of a three-day strike began at 1430 local time. The demonstrators visited the consulates of Australia, Canada, Japan, the European Union, the U.K. and the U.S. to deliver a petition to encourage the respective countries to support the protest movement. At approximately 1530 local time, police officers stopped the march, but demonstrators were allowed to continue shortly afterward. Following the march, a rally was held at Edinburgh Place. Organizers claimed that approximately 1,000 participants attended the march, while hundreds more attended the Edinburgh Place rally; both events concluded peacefully.

India (Security threat level – 3): On 19 December 2019, demonstrations continued across India against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which Parliament passed on 12 December. Protesters gathered in more than 15 major cities despite an official ban on public gatherings of more than four people under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code as well as the suspension of internet and mobile data services in areas near expected protests. Protesters blocked major highways and access to railway stations throughout the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. In the Daliganj suburb of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh’s state capital, protesters burned vehicles and threw stones at police officers, who attempted to disperse the crowd with baton charges and tear gas. At least one person was reportedly killed during clashes in the city. Separately, in Mangaluru (Mangalore), located in the southern Karnataka state, at least 20 people — including protesters and police officers — were injured in protest-related violence; two of the injured remain in critical condition. Authorities have imposed a curfew in at least five districts in Mangaluru until 0000 local time on 21 December (1830 UTC on 20 December) to curb further escalation of violence.

Elsewhere in the country, police officers detained hundreds of protesters in major cities — including Bengaluru (Bangalore), Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi — for participating in demonstrations. In New Delhi, widespread demonstrations resulted in the closure of at least 18 metro stations. Authorities also restricted mobile phone service in parts of the city, including in the vicinity of the Red Fort. In addition, IndiGo airlines canceled at least 19 flights and delayed 16 others scheduled to operate through Indira Gandhi International Airport (VIDP/DEL) after citywide traffic gridlocks and road restrictions prevented crew members from reaching the facility. Other airlines also canceled an unspecified number of flights. Meanwhile, in Mumbai, thousands of protesters gathered at the Gowalia Tank Maidan to participate in anti-CAA protests. Additionally, approximately 60,000 demonstrators peacefully gathered for a protest in the town of Malegaon, located in Maharashtra state.

Travelers and expatriates in the aforementioned areas should expect severe transportation disruptions and restrictions on mobile phone service with little to no notice. Individuals in India should avoid any large gatherings due to the probability of being collaterally affected by violence at these protests and should adhere to directives from local authorities.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): On 19 December 2019, trade unions across France entered the 15th consecutive day of their strike against a proposed pension reform. While ground transportation services remain disrupted throughout the country, the disruption is less severe than on previous days. National rail operator Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) and Paris public transport provider Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) continue to operate significantly reduced services; however, services have improved, as more rail conductors returned to work on 19 December. Most services continue to operate at less than half of their capacities, including the long-distance TGV trains, which are operating at 40% of normal capacity, and Transport express regional (TER) trains, which are also at 40% capacity. Public transportation in Paris also continues to experience significant disruptions. Union members continued to cut power to commercial businesses and homes around the cities of Marseille and Perpignan. Notable disruptions are likely to continue through the upcoming Christmas holiday; however, union leaders and government officials are expected to continue talks through the week.

Additionally, several unions representing flight crews and pilots have announced indefinite strikes beginning on 3 January 2020, unless union and government negotiators can successfully resolve the pension strikes.

Spain (Security threat level – 3): On the evening of 18 December 2019, police officers and pro-Catalan protesters clashed near the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona following the Barcelona Madrid soccer match. Prior to the match, members of the pro-Catalan group — the Democratic Tsunami — announced plans to surround the stadium during the game. At least 5,000 activists gathered outside the stadium shouting pro-independence slogans and holding banners. Protesters then erected roadblocks, set fire to trash cans and threw projectiles at police officers, who responded with foam bullets and baton charges to disperse protesters. Approximately 64 people were injured in the violence and police officers arrested at least 10 people.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

Panama (Security threat level – 3): On 18 December 2019, the U.S. Embassy in Panama City issued a Demonstration Alert, which reads in part as follows:

“Location: Panama City, Panama

“Event: Demonstrations are expected to take place on December 20, 2019, beginning at 8:00am. The group intends to protest on the 30-year anniversary of Operation Just Cause.  Note – Access on and off the Embassy compound will be restricted during the demonstration and the Consular Section will be closed to the public.”