Worldview Security Update – October 7, 2019
7-Oct-19

AMERICAS

Ecuador (Security threat level – 3): As of 7 October 2019, indigenous groups are blocking roads that run through indigenous areas in the Andes and Amazon regions, including the Pan-American Highway, to protest against the end of fuel subsidies, an action that President Lenín Moreno announced on 3 October. Reports indicate that a significant number of roads in Azuay province are blocked; disruptions have also been reported in Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Cañar, Loja and Imbabura provinces. On the previous day, police officers deployed tear gas to disperse the protesters, who threw stones at the officers. In addition, protesters took approximately 50 security personnel hostage. A national protest march by indigenous groups is expected to arrive in Quito later on 7 October.

Meanwhile, police officers clashed with protesters in Quito on 6 October. Police officers deployed tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, who threw stones at the officers. The protesters also set fire to tires and stacks of wood, and used large rocks to block a number of roadways. In a related development, transportation unions called-off the national transportation strike on the evening of 4 October.

Haiti (Security threat level – 4): Opposition leaders called for supporters to protest the ceremony marking the opening of the judicial year in Haiti in Port-au-Prince on 7 October 2019. The ceremony, which the president typically attends, has since been canceled due to security concerns. It is unknown if protesters still plan to demonstrate.

On 4 October protesters marched to the U.N. headquarters in Port-au-Prince, where opposition leaders presented a list of grievances to U.N. representatives and called on the international community to end their support of President Jovenel Moïse. Protesters disrupted traffic near Toussaint Louverture International Airport (MTPP/PAP) and burned tires. While the day’s protests began peacefully, police officers used tear gas and water cannons to deter protesters from arriving at the U.N. headquarters; protesters threw Molotov cocktails, stones and other projectiles at security officers in response. Similar demonstrations occurred in the cities of Cap-Haïtien, Jeremie, Les Cayes, Léogâne, Mirebalais and Port-de-Paix. The latest round of protests in Haiti, which began in early September, has left at least 17 people dead and 187 others injured.

Peru (Security threat level – 3): On 4 October 2019, Peruvian Airlines suspended flight operations until further notice. The carrier suspended operations due to financial difficulties after authorities froze the airline’s bank accounts. The carrier is currently working to find new investors to resume operations. The move affected at least 1,100 passengers nationwide.

ASIA

China (Security threat level – 3): Over the weekend of 5-6 October 2019, anti-government protesters clashed with police officers, and Mass Transit Railway (MTR) services were largely suspended across Hong Kong. As of 7 October, a limited number of MTR services have resumed after authorities suspended MTR services in Hong Kong on 4 October due to anti-government protests. In addition, a planned demonstration outside Prince Edward MTR in Mong Kok turned violent after police officers deployed tear gas to disperse protesters who set up barricades along Nathan and Prince Edward roads. The protesters gather at the station almost daily to demonstrate against violence that occurred at the station on 31 August. Additionally, protesters broke into the Sha Tin MTR station and vandalized it after it remained closed. Other protests throughout the day on 7 October were largely peaceful.

Previously, riot police officers and protesters clashed across Hong Kong during the afternoon and into the night of 6 October. Thousands of protesters participated in planned demonstrations in Victoria Park and near the SOGO mall in Causeway Bay, and marched down Hennessy Road toward Chater Garden in Central. At the same time, protesters marched from Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui to Maple Street Playground in Sham Shui Po. Police officers conducted baton charges and fired tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse the demonstrators. Protesters responded by throwing Molotov cocktails, bricks and other projectiles at police officers. Protesters also erected barricades and roadblocks on major roadways across Hong Kong, including in Admiralty, Prince Edward, Sham Shui Po and Wan Chai. Vandals targeted several government offices and storefronts owned by pro-Beijing businesses, including the Kowloon government offices in Yai Ma Tei and the Causeway Bay and Jordan branches of China Construction Bank. A number of MTR station entrances and exits were also vandalized or obstructed. In addition, a number of fires were set in Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui.

Meanwhile in Kowloon East, Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers garrisoned at a barracks there raised a yellow warning flag as protesters marched past the barracks, warning that demonstrators could be arrested and prosecuted for targeting the building with laser lights; the incident marks the first direct interaction between Chinese government forces and protesters. In another development on 6 October, riot police officers set up checkpoints on the Kowloon side of the Eastern Harbour Tunnel and the Tai Lam Tunnel in Yuen Long and stopped buses in order to perform searches and identity checks of the passengers. At least 16 protesters were arrested and at least 11 people were injured in the clashes during the day’s demonstrations.

On 5 October protesters staged “flash mob-style” demonstrations throughout Hong Kong to protest against the government-imposed ban on wearing face masks in public. Events took place in Causeway Bay, Central, Mong Kok, Sham Shui Po and Tsim Sha Tsui, Wong Tai Sin and Yuen Long, among other locations. Riot police officers dispersed protesters in several areas, but no clashes were reported. In a separate demonstration in Sheung Shui, protesters vandalized several Chinese-run businesses. Police officers arrested at least four people during the demonstrations.

At approximately 2230 local time (1430 UTC) on 4 October, MTR officials announced the suspension of all rail, light rail and MTR-operated bus services in Hong Kong due to anti-government demonstrations. In addition, rail services to Hong Kong International Airport (VHHH/HKG) were suspended until 1430 local time on 5 October, and only ran in 10-minute intervals from Hong Kong station to the airport once service resumed. Demonstrations and clashes occurred throughout the city, including in Admiralty, Central, Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Mong Kok, Kwun Tong, Sha Tin and Tsing Yi. Protesters vandalized businesses associated with mainland China, and set fire to MTR stations and light rail stops.

In Yuen Long, a plainclothes police officer shot and wounded a protester, after which demonstrators at the site assaulted the officer; police officers then intervened to rescue their colleague. Separately, police officers fired tear gas at protesters in Wong Tai Sin, Tsuen Wan and Aberdeen; however, there were no reports of injuries.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked emergency powers in order to enact legislation banning facemasks at public gatherings, which contributed to an escalation in the ongoing anti-government protest actions. The measure went into effect at 0000 local on 5 October, shortly after the High Court dismissed an emergency appeal to halt the controversial ban.

Japan / South Pacific Islands / Guam (Security threat levels – 1 / 1 / 1): According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center, as of 0900 UTC on 7 October 2019, Super Typhoon Hagibis was located approximately 410 km (255 mi) east-northeast of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, and was moving west-northwest at 24 kph (15 mph). At that time, Hagibis was generating maximum sustained winds of 241 kph with gusts up to 296 kph. On its current track, Hagibis is forecast to make landfall between Japan’s Shikoku and Kansai regions by 12 October. Although it is not expected to make landfall in the Northern Mariana Islands, Hagibis is projected to bring strong winds and severe rainfall to the territory, as well as Guam, through 7 October.

EUROPE

France (Security threat level – 3): On 5 October 2019, police officers in Amiens deployed tear gas to disperse protesters on Chaussée Saint-Pierre road after a group of “black bloc” demonstrators hurled projectiles at police officers and set fires on the roadway. Approximately 450 people gathered for the march around the city center, which authorities had earlier declared off-limits to protesters. No arrests or injuries were reported. 

Separately, members of Extinction Rebellion — a climate change activist group — occupied the Italie 2 Shopping Center in Paris’s 13th arrondissement. Members of the “yellow vest” movement as well as other activist groups also joined the demonstration. Police officers attempted to disperse the crowds during closing hours, but protesters barricaded the entrances with tables and chairs. Despite resistance from protesters, there were no reported arrests or clashes with police officers. The demonstrations mark the 47th consecutive weekend of “yellow vest” protests in France.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iraq (Security threat level – 5): Police officers and anti-government protesters clashed across Iraq over the weekend of 5-6 October 2019. Police officers fired tear gas and live rounds at protesters in Sadr City, located in eastern Baghdad, on 6 October. At least 15 people were killed and another 25 were injured. Meanwhile, internet and telecommunications services continue to be suspended across most of the country.

On the previous day, security forces in Baghdad fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse protesters. Officials lifted the citywide curfew at 0500 local time (0200 UTC), although roadblocks to Tahrir Square and other gathering places remained in place. Meanwhile, protesters in the southern city of Nasiriyah set fire to the offices of two political parties; security forces responded with live rounds to disperse the demonstrators. In Diwaniyah, protesters marched to the offices of the local government, but no clashes were reported. In addition to the protests, several news outlets reported on 5 October that unknown, masked men attacked their offices. The attacks, which targeted the Baghdad offices of al-Arabiya, al-Hadath, Dijlah TV and NRT news, occurred almost simultaneously. The attackers destroyed equipment and set fire to the buildings. Several journalists were reportedly beaten during the incidents. A number of other news outlets stated that they have been receiving threats as well, but no additional attacks have been reported. Since the start of the protests on 1 October, over 100 people have been killed and at least 6,000 have been injured in clashes.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Rwanda (Security threat level – 3): As of 7 October 2019, Rwandan authorities have secured the Kinigi sector of the northwest Musanze district, located near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), following an attack on 4 October. During the evening hours, a group of unknown assailants wielding knives, machetes and other crude weapons attacked the area, which is located near Volcanoes National Park, a popular destination among tourists. At least 14 people were killed and 12 others were injured during the attack. Authorities did not disclose if any tourists were targeted in the attack, though security forces heavily guard hotels in the area. Police officers conducted an operation on 6 October following the attack, during which they killed at least 19 suspects and arrested five others. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack; however, rebel groups based in the neighboring DRC have launched cross-border incursions into Rwanda in the past.

WORLD

World: On 7 October 2019, climate change activists involved in the Extinction Rebellion movement began a two-week protest scheduled in 60 cities worldwide. In the United Kingdom, thousands of protesters gathered throughout London to call for greater government action on climate change. Protesters blocked roads throughout the city, including Lambeth and Westminster bridges. Police officers have arrested at least 135 people for obstructing traffic. Thousands have also participated in protests in France, Germany and the Netherlands. Protests have also been reported across Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

Although no violence has been reported at any of the climate strikes, large crowds have disrupted traffic in several major cities. Severe traffic disruptions have been reported in Berlin, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; London, United Kingdom; and Sydney, Australia, among others.

GOVERNMENT WARNINGS

China (Security threat level – 3): On 7 October 2019, the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued updated travel advice for Hong Kong (SAR of China), which reads in part as follows: “In recent months, large-scale political demonstrations have taken place throughout Hong Kong. Protests have affected many areas, including those popular with tourists. While a number of peaceful activities have taken place, many other protests have led to clashes between police and protesters involving significant violence. Some Mass Transit Railway (MTR) metro stations have been closed – including in major tourist areas – due to damage caused by the protests. You should follow the MTR website for the latest updates before commencing your journey.”