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            december 12, 2019

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Risk consultancy warns business to batten down for HK protests


Serious disruption in Hong Kong is likely to continue for at least a week, according to risk assessment agency Steve Vickers and Associates (SVA), reports the American Journal of Transportation.
"At a bare minimum, businesses should examine safety and security of staff, protection of plant and property, possible denial of access to business premises and cancellation of planned business events and meetings," said the SVA advisory.
The issue, the latest of a series of Beijing-favoured, but unpopular measures that undermine local autonomy, is allowing the extradition of alleged offenders of Chinese mainland law.
The powerful chief executive, who is chosen by a committee approved by Beijing, will enact the law to be ratified by the largely toothless legislature that has slightly more power than the European Parliament.
SVA, based in Wanchai near the disturbances in Hong Kong, expects a series of rolling protests, waxing and waning, but focused around the government complex near the city centre.
"These protests may prove peaceable, perhaps with flashes of violence. Counter-demonstrations organised by pro-government forces, may seek to provoke a contest, adding to tensions. A direct confrontation with protesters would likely result in violence," said the SVA advisory.
Government orders to the Hong Kong Police to clear the demonstration area and to regain control of the situation is likely, involving the wide scale use of CS smoke or other crowd control mechanisms, it said.
"There is a risk of a series of running, illegal protests, as tensions rise. This situation could present the risk of significant violence and disruption elsewhere, as in the Mong Kok riots of 2016, but may last for a longer period and extend beyond the Admiralty district," it said.
The government may yet reduce tensions by suspending the proposed extradition law, although it has hitherto shown little sign of any willingness to do so and appears to have backed themselves into a corner, it said.
SVA recommends that all companies likely to be affected should carefully evaluate their risk profiles in relation to the various scenarios outlined above. Moreover, they should monitor developments closely.
"The risk of escalation is now very real. Police searches of people's bags on the [metro] on 11 June had already prompted ire, among younger demonstrators. The police have announced that they will not tolerate any violence, and are prepared for a confrontation," said SVA.
"Protester numbers have grown fast. Some have come prepared with masks and headgear to counter police crowd control measures. Others were seen gathering bricks as potential weapons.
"Certain factions seem bent on seeking a confrontation. Should pro-government groups rally, their involvement would only heighten tensions and provoke conflicts," it said.

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