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Worldview Security Update – December 23, 2019
23-Dec-19

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): On 22 December 2019, police officers in Hong Kong clashed with demonstrators at the conclusion of a largely peaceful Uighur Muslim solidarity rally at Edinburgh Place in Central. The clashes began after a protester removed the Chinese national flag from a flagpole, and police officers moved in to arrest suspects. Demonstrators then began throwing objects at the officers, who responded with batons and pepper spray. One officer drew and aimed his service revolver at the protesters during the clashes. There were no reports of significant injuries, and protest organizers called an end to the rally shortly afterward.

On 21 December clashes broke out between protesters and riot police officers at two separate shopping centers in the city. In Tsim Sha Tsui, approximately two dozen officers entered the Harbour City shopping center to remove protesters from the building, where officers used pepper spray to deter protesters who attempted to attack a police officer. Several minor scuffles had occurred between the protesters and a group of approximately 10 plainclothes officers before the riot officers entered the premises. Separately, police officers clashed with a group of protesters at Yoho mall, where protesters vandalized at least two businesses perceived to be pro-Beijing. Approximately 100 demonstrators had gathered at the adjacent Yuen Long MTR station to mark the five-month anniversary of 21 July attacks perpetrated by suspected members of organized crime groups against protesters at the MTR station.

India (Security threat level – 3): As of 23 December 2019, large-scale protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are ongoing in major Indian cities. On 23 December tens of thousands of people gathered at the Quddus Saheb Edigah grounds in Bengaluru (Bangalore) to participate in anti-CAA protest. There were no reports of major disruptions or clashes. Meanwhile, small-scale clashes between protesters and police officers continued throughout the day on 22 December during nationwide protests in opposition to the CAA. Mobile internet and messaging services remain suspended in several cities, including in parts of the capital New Delhi and major cities in the northern Uttar Pradesh state.

On 20 December. at least six people were killed and 50 police officers were seriously injured in Uttar Pradesh in protest-related violence. The deaths occurred in the cities of Bijnor, Forizabad, Meerut and Sambhal. Police officers used batons, tear gas and rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse protesters. In the capital New Delhi, unknown individuals set a car on fire, while police officers charged a group of protesters and used water cannons to stop them at the Delhi Gate. At least 36 people, including eight police officers, were hospitalized due to injuries.

Separately, in the Gujarat state’s city of Vadodara, police officers used tear gas against protesters who had been throwing stones at the officers. In Hyderabad, the capital of southern Telangana state, police officers arrested approximately 100 people at the People’s Plaza in Necklace Road for attempting to participate in a protest.

Thus far, at least 23 people have been killed and dozens others have been injured in the protest-related violence. Police officers have arrested more than 1,500 people since the protests began on 12 December.

Analyst Comment: The Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing regarding the CAA — which will grant citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan — on 22 January 2020, but it remains unknown how long the court will take to reach a verdict. Protests are likely to continue at least until the Supreme Court makes a decision. The government is expected to continue using the aforementioned measures to contain protests. However, large-scale restrictions on broadband internet services are highly unlikely. Protests are also more prevalent in Muslim-majority areas. The potential for unrest to quickly escalate is a significant concern. Overreaction by security forces against protesters is the most plausible scenario. Furthermore, due to the religious aspect of the legislation, communal unrest is also a possibility if the demonstrations are sustained for a longer period of time.

Philippines (Security threat level – 4): As of 1500 UTC on 23 December 2019, Tropical Storm Phanfone — locally named "Ursula" — was located approximately 1,150 km (715 mi) east-southeast of Manila, Philippines, and was tracking west-northwestward at 30 kph (18 mph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. At that time, Phanfone was generating maximum sustained winds of 83 kph with gusts of up to 102 kph. The storm is expected to make landfall on Samar Island by 2000 local time (1200 UTC) on 24 December and will cross the country’s central islands, before exiting into the South China Sea by the evening of 25 December. At least six flights scheduled to operate through Mactan-Cebu International Airport (RPVM/CEB) on 24 December have been canceled in anticipation of the storm and further cancellations are likely. Authorities have warned of possible flash-flooding and landslides due to the heavy rains associated with the storm.

AUSTRALASIA

Australia (Security threat level – 2): As of 24 December 2019, more than 100 bushfires — nearly 60 of which remain uncontained — are continuing to burn across Australia’s eastern coast, primarily in the state of New South Wales (NSW). In the town of Balmoral, located approximately 120 km (75 mi) southwest of Sydney, the Green Wattle Creek fire spread to more than 200,000 hectares (494,210 acres), destroying at least 10% of homes in the town; the fire remains out of control as of 24 December. Meanwhile, at approximately 1755 local time (0655 UTC) on 23 December, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service issued an emergency warning that a bush fire burning in the Forest Road, Comberton area had reached 2,200 hectares and was also out of control. The Princes Highway was closed between South Nowra and Conjola. Thus far, the fires have consumed an estimated 3 million hectares of land and have destroyed more than 1,000 homes. At least nine wildfire-related fatalities have been reported.

Live updates regarding ongoing bushfires and potential evacuation orders across NSW are available here . Additionally, travelers to Australia’s eastern coastline should monitor air quality conditions , some of which have reached “hazardous” levels in recent days.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): As of 23 December 2019, operations at Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport (LFKJ/AJA) remain suspended due to extensive flooding caused by severe weather from Storm Fabien over the weekend of 21-22 December. According to Eurocontrol, the airport will be unavailable until at least 2200 local time (2300 UTC) on 23 December. Air Corsica canceled 50 flights on 22 December due to the closure, but announced its intention to reroute traffic to northern Corsica. No further significant cancellations are expected, as the weather conditions have improved over Corsica. Travelers should nonetheless contact their respective airlines to check the status of their flights.

France (Security threat level – 3): On 23 December 2019, trade unions in France entered their 19th consecutive day of strikes against a proposed pension reform. Transportation disruptions are ongoing across the country and are expected to continue through 26 December. National rail operator Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) warned that only 41% of long-distance TGV trains and Intercité services would run on 23-24 December and that only 41% of total rail services would run on 25-26 December. Public transportation in Paris remains very limited, with most services on the Paris Metro and the Réseau Express Régional (RER) only available during rush hour.

Additionally, several unions announced plans for a large day of protests and walkouts of 9 January 2020, unless union leaders and government negotiators can successfully resolve the pension-related disputes.

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