This is an annual report produced
in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Consulate General
in Hong Kong. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Hong Kong. Review OSAC’s Hong Kong-specific page for original OSAC reporting, consular
messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to
private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.
The current U.S. Department of
State at the date of this report’s publication advises exercising
increased caution for travel to Hong Kong due to the novel coronavirus and
civil unrest. However, the Travel Advisory
in effect prior to the outbreak assessed Hong Kong at Level 2, indicating
travelers should exercise increased caution for travel to Hong Kong due to civil
unrest. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Hong Kong as a LOW-threat
location for crime. The Consulate is not aware
of any specific threats against U.S. citizens. Petty street crime occasionally
occurs in tourist areas. Be particularly mindful of belongings in areas of high
congestion, such as the Mass Transit Railway (MTR), Peak Tram, Star Ferry,
Central District, Wan Chai, and large marketplaces throughout the city, where you
may be more vulnerable to pickpockets.
Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should
Leave Behind, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud, Taking Credit, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs and Considerations for
Road Safety and
Hong Kong has
a highly developed and well-maintained road and highway network. Traffic moves
on the left. During the daytime, traffic congests Hong Kong's urban areas. Each
year, there are about 14,000 traffic accidents involving more than 18,000
drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Speed limits are 50 kilometers per hour
(kph) (approximately 30 mph) in urban areas, 80 kph (approximately 50 mph) on
highways, and 110 kph (approximately 70 mph) on expressways, unless otherwise
marked. The use of seatbelts in vehicles, if available, is mandatory for all passengers.
Hong Kong uses automatic
photo-ticketing systems to discourage speeding. The owner of a ticketed vehicle
will receive the ticket in the mail.
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving
Techniques; and read the State Department’s
webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Hong Kong has a
modern, efficient public transportation system composed of an integrated subway,
bus, and ferry system. The majority of people use public transportation instead
of driving on the congested roadways. Public transport in Hong Kong is safe and
reliable, though petty crimes like pickpocketing can occur. Buses and the MTR
are clean and punctual. Subway stations have signs in English and Chinese.
Timetable and bus stop names typically appear in English and Chinese. Bus
drivers, for the most part, speak some English.
There are occasionally
reports of taxi scams where drivers increase the fare on the meter or claim
that the fare is in a currency other than Hong Kong dollars.
Since June of 2019, protest activity
has resulted in frequent disruptions to public transportation. The MTR has been
especially hard hit, with entire lines and stations closing periodically for
extensive repairs. Consult publicly available information such as MTR Mobile for up-to-date
There have been two accidents
involving ferries between Hong and Macau in recent years: the first, in 2012,
resulted in 39 deaths; the second, in 2015, caused no fatalities, but over 100
The West Kowloon
Station (WEK) is the terminus and only station of the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong Express Rail Link. The station connects to the mainland China section
through a dedicated tunnel and includes a Mainland Port Area where the laws of
mainland China are in force. The terminal railway station is located in Jordan,
West Kowloon, near the Airport Express and Kowloon MTR Station.
Mainland Port Area is an area inside West Kowloon station that serves as a border control
pointbetween mainland China and Hong Kong. Since September 2018, Mainland Chinese immigration and
police personnel operate exclusively within the area, and the laws of Mainland
China, rather than Hong Kong, are in force.
pass through the Hong Kong immigration exit checkpoint on their way to mainland
China inside the Train Station or on the train itself in that area, they are in
the Mainland Port Area. Likewise, passengers arriving from mainland China are
in the Mainland Port Area until they exit the Hong Kong immigration entry
checkpoint. Chinese authorities have informed the United States they consider
the Mainland Port Area to be in mainland China for all legal purposes; travelers
who plan to enter the Mainland Port Area should plan accordingly.
Numerous flights at Hong Kong
International Airport (HKG) faced disruptions or cancellations for two days in
August 2019 due to protest activity. Travelers using HKG should monitor the Hong Kong International Airport website for specific
information and guidance. At present only ticketed passengers may access most terminal
areas. HKG is one of the largest, busiest airports in the world, providing
service to around 190 destinations by over 100 airlines. Airports Council
International regularly rates HKG as among the best airports worldwide. MTR and
ferry services are available to and from the airport.
Hong Kong customs authorities
enforce strict regulations concerning controlled items you might be carrying
while transiting Hong Kong (temporary importation or exportation). Airport
security routinely and completely screens luggage loaded onto an aircraft
whether belonging to a departing or transiting passenger. Discovery of weapons
of any kind – including stun guns – leads to police investigation, arrest, and
detention. If you bring controlled items into Hong Kong without the necessary
documentation, authorities may prosecute you and seize the goods in question.
Among the items that passengers must declare to customs officials are alcohol
(including methyl alcohol), tobacco products, and merchandise imported for
commercial purposes. Hong Kong regulates electronic cigarettes as
pharmaceutical products; possession of such items without the proper authority
could result in a considerable fine and up to two years in prison. Find a
non-exhaustive list of controlled and/or prohibited items on the Hong Kong Country Information Sheet.
While Hong Kong is not yet subject to the same
cybersecurity laws as mainland China, travelers to Hong Kong should act as if
they have no expectation of privacy when it comes to electronic communications.
Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
U.S. Department of State has assessed Hong Kong as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official
U.S. government interests. The Consulate is not aware of any indigenous terrorist groups
operating in Hong Kong, and there is no information suggesting any specific or
credible transnational terrorist threats directed against U.S. citizens or
interests. Nevertheless, one cannot rule out the possibility that a lone-wolf
attacker or transnational terrorist organization would attempt to carry out an
attack in Hong Kong.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Hong Kong as a LOW-threat
location for political violence directed at or
affecting official U.S. government interests. Since June 2019, there have been hundreds of demonstrations
resulting in nearly 7,000 arrests. Multiple demonstrations typically occur in
Hong Kong each week. Visit OSAC’s Hong Kong page for
extensive reporting on the protests and their effects on the U.S private-sector
The majority of the protests
since June 2019 have a nexus to a controversial effort to amend the Fugitives
Offenders Ordinance in a way that would have allowed Hong Kong to extradite
suspected criminals to jurisdictions with which it does not currently have an
extradition agreement, including the People’s Republic of China. While the Hong
Kong Government formally withdrew the proposed legislation in September 2019,
the protests now center on demands for additional reforms and broader political
issues. Common areas for protest activity include the Tsim Sha Tsui/Mong Kok
corridor along Nathan Road, East Kowloon, the Central Business District to
include Admiralty, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay, and several areas in the New
Territories. The U.S. Consulate experienced over 80 demonstrations in the
second half of 2019, all of which were peaceful in nature.
While many of Hong Kong’s
demonstrations are peaceful, and police presence is normally sufficient to
maintain order, protests have sometimes become violent, resulting in numerous
arrests, significant damage to public transportation/property, and serious
injuries to both protesters and police. One fatality linked directly to the
protest activity. On October 13, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated
near a police vehicle, but resulted in no injuries; this is the only confirmed
case of explosives being used in a protest. Protests have also caused
widespread disruptions to the MTR and other public transport lines. Avoid
demonstrations and protests, since even those intended to be peaceful can
become violent. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
typhoon season (July through November), the Hong Kong Observatory issues typhoon warnings an average of six times a
year; it issues heavy rainstorm alerts more frequently. The Hong Kong
Observatory has an excellent notification and monitoring system. If the Hong
Kong Government announces a Typhoon Signal 8 or above, or a Black Rainstorm
Warning, many facilities in Hong Kong close, and bridges may close to traffic.
Additionally, under such a warning, the U.S. Consulate General will likely close
Air pollution is
an increasingly serious health concern in Hong Kong. Traffic fumes and ozone,
sulfur, and nitrogen oxides from mainland factories lead to a visible haze in
the atmosphere on most days. Average roadside pollution levels exceed WHO
guidelines by 200 percent and continue to deteriorate, creating health risks
for those with allergies, asthma, or cardiac problems.
been no major problems affecting critical infrastructure in Hong Kong; however,
there is a nuclear power plant 50 km (approximately 30 miles) from Hong Kong in
Hong Kong has very strict privacy
laws; however, in recent years, there has been an increase in complaints
regarding personal data collection. In addition, the personal information of
both Hong Kong residents and foreigners photographed near protest sites or
participating in protests have been shared on online platforms, including ones
hosted in Russia.
Personal Identity Concerns
Reports of discrimination based
on gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation are infrequent. Same-sex
sexual relations are legal. There is no law against discrimination on the
grounds of sexual orientation.
to improve accessibility, Hong Kong’s hilly topography poses challenges to
individuals with physical disabilities. Hong Kong’s many stairs, inclines, and
steep, uneven walkways do not typically accommodate individuals who use a
walker, cane, crutches, or a wheelchair. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
The local police emergency number
is 999. There are numerous police
stations located throughout the various districts and communities of Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Police Force has distinct units responsible for all
crime/security issues, and is highly trained and generally professional.
General police support and response to foreign victims of crime is excellent.
The average response time is under five minutes for emergencies and under ten
minutes for non-emergencies. Police operators typically speak English,
Cantonese, and Mandarin. The crime detection rate, a measure of
reported crimes that police solve, of 37% for the first 10 months of 2019 was down
from 43.5% for the same period in 2018. Senior police sources blame the
diversion of resources to deal with the six months of anti-government protests.
Authorities must alert the U.S.
Consulate General of an arrested or detained U.S. citizen. If you are concerned
the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, request that the
police notify the U.S. Consulate General of your arrest. Incidents of police
corruption, bribery, or harassment are rare. However, if such incidents do
occur, contact the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) at +852
2526-6366. Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
Dial 999 for
emergencies or +852 2735-3355 for the Fire Services Department. Hong Kong
offers good medical facilities, with many Western-trained physicians. Hong Kong
emergency service response times for police, fire, and ambulances are good.
Some emergency personnel training meets U.S. paramedic standards, though most training
is at the first-responder level to perform basic stabilization and transport to
the nearest hospital. For medical assistance, refer to the Consulate’s Medical Assistance page. More
comprehensive lists of medical doctors and dentists are also available at the Medical Council of Hong Kong and Dental Council of Hong Kong websites.
Consider obtaining temporary medical
insurance before departing the United States. Medical facilities in Hong Kong
require foreigners to pay for treatment, and then seek reimbursement through
their insurance company. Hospitals, including emergency rooms, also will not
usually admit foreigners as patients without payment up front; one must have
insurance that the hospital will accept, or the hospital will require the
patient make a deposit or put up a guarantee prior to
admission. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing
international health insurance before traveling internationally. Review the
State Department’s webpage on insurance
Vaccination and Health Guidance
is an increasing concern in Hong Kong. Congested vehicle traffic and mainland
factories pump out ozone, sulfur, and nitrogen oxides, leading to a visible
haze in the atmosphere on most days of the year. Average roadside pollution
levels exceed WHO guidelines by 200% and continue to deteriorate, creating
health risks for those with allergies, asthma, or cardiac problems.
In addition to
routine childhood and adult immunizations, consider receiving the following
- Hepatitis A: for all travelers.
- Typhoid: for
risk-averse travelers desiring maximum pre-travel preparation.
- Hepatitis B:
for prolonged stays; frequent short stays in this or other high-risk countries;
adventure travelers; the possibility of acupuncture, dental work, or tattooing;
all health care workers; the possibility of a new sexual partner during stay;
and travelers with high potential to seek medical care in local facilities.
Consider for short stays in travelers desiring maximum pre-travel preparation.
encephalitis: Sporadic, limited risk exists in rural areas of the New
Territories. Transmission season is April-October. For risk-averse travelers
desiring maximum pre-travel protection and traveling for prolonged stays or
frequent short stays in risk areas. Not necessary for urban areas or short
visits to usual rural tourist sites. Use evening and nighttime insect
- Rabies: Bats
exist in Hong Kong. Take bat bites seriously and seek post-exposure prophylaxis
even if already immunized.
(including 2009 H1N1): for all travelers. Flu transmission occurs throughout
the year in the tropics, and all travelers are at increased risk. Unvaccinated
travelers (especially those at high risk for complications) should consider a
standby treatment course of oseltamivir.
The CDC offers additional
information on vaccines and health guidance for Hong Kong.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with
Medication, I’m Drinking What in My
Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of
Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for
Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council Information
Kong/Macau OSAC Country Council meets several times a year. Individuals
interested in participating in the Country Council or connect with the Regional
Security Officer (RSO) should contact OSAC’s East Asia-Pacific Team.
U.S. Consulate Contact
26 Garden Road,
Operation: Monday through Friday, 0830-1730 (except U.S. and local holidays)
Operator: +852 2523-9011
Emergency line for calls after
normal business hours: +852-2523-9011,
General in Hong Kong is also responsible for Macau.
- Consulate Guangzhou: Huaxia Road,
Zhujiang New Town,Tianhe District, Guangzhou, China. 020-3814-5000.
- Consulate Shanghai: 1469 Huai Hai Zhong Road, Shanghai,
China, 200031. 86-21 8011-2200.
- Embassy Beijing: No. 55 An
Jia Lou Lu 100600, (86-10) 8531-3000.
you travel, consider the following resources:
- State Department Traveler’s Checklist
- Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)