More Filipinos rethinking HK travel plans over growing political unrest

Jan Yumul, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2019 07:13 AM

Anti-extradition bill demonstrators attend a protest at the arrival hall of Hong Kong Airport, China August 9, 2019. Thomas Peter, Reuters

Manila-based writer Tedrick Yau, who visits Hong Kong at least twice a year both for work and leisure, says he has had to postpone his flight at least four times since June (the first, due to a family matter), coincidentally, when tensions over the now-shelved unpopular anti-extradition bill was building up.

The recent turmoil rocking the former British colony have now gone beyond the controversies surrounding the bill, reflecting a wider dissatisfaction over Beijing's tightening grip of the city.

Yau, who was supposed to leave for Hong Kong on Wednesday, August 7, for a project with a hotel there, finally decided to push back, for a while, a decision also fueled by the advice of Hong Kong-based relatives and close friends, who just some weeks back had told him the city was still safe for tourists.

"A Chinese Filipino friend advised me it's not the best time right now because you don't know where the protests will be held next," said Yau.

"It's really sad. The easiest, quickest getaway for Filipinos, and for a complete change of scenery, the first option is Hong Kong. It was never Taiwan or Bangkok. It's one of the safest places because it is also efficient."

For what would have been their first time to travel to Hong Kong, Jules Guiang, along with two other friends had some time back booked a plane ticket for July. But because of a sudden change in their schedules, they decided not to push through with it, leaving the booking to expiry. The timing, though may have been a blessing in disguise for Guiang.

"To be honest, I was really scared that we might get in trouble if we go there because of the protests," said Guiang.

"I was more worried actually with the detention of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Secretary Albert Del Rosario. I was just maybe paranoid that I've been too vocal against China's aggression that it might be a factor in the airport."

A planned family reunion in Hong Kong for summer next year has turned into a wait-and-see for Tin Marques and her 15-strong clan. Marquez said some members of her family have never been to the city and was drawn to it because of its family-friendly attractions. Habitually, her family likes to make travel plans a year in advance.

"Given the present situation, we may have to reconsider a new destination," said Marques.

Ahead of a series of a massive demonstrations kicking off at Hong Kong airport, Friday, V.L., an overseas Filipino working in Hong Kong for more than 5 years, says the city still generally safe.

Her mother and brother are currently in Hong Kong, their tickets purchased months back. She said a lot of Filipino families were also on board the same flight when she came to fetch them.

"Kung alam mo naman na may protest sa area na iyon pwede namang iwasan," said V.L.

"Sa tingin naman namin ang sitwasyon sa Hong Kong ay hindi naman ganoon ka delikado for tourists. Mas nakakatakot pa nga sa Pilipinas kaliwa't kanan ang patayan."

(If you know there are protests in certain areas, you can avoid them. We think that the situation in Hong Kong isn't dangerous for tourists. It's even scarier in the Philippines where killings happen left and right).