‘Come to Turkey’: consul general to Hong Kong wants travel alert downgraded despite failed coup in his country

Turkish diplomat Korhan Kemik says the Security Bureau’s alert is an ‘impediment’ to closer ties, and is crippling for tourism

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016, 5:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 July, 2016, 2:45pm

Turkey’s top diplomat in Hong Kong has appealed to the city’s government to roll back a travel security alert prompted by the attempted coup in the country, calling it an “impediment” to closer ties and a risk to the Turkish tourism industry.

Consul General Korhan Kemik raised concerns over the security assessment, insisting there was “no negative situation” after the attempt to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He claimed that a travel warning by Hong Kong’s government had affected tourism and was leading to a decrease in visitors.

The failed coup on July 15 saw some 270 people killed and scores more injured, leading to a nationwide three-month state of emergency. That move prompted Hong Kong’s Security Bureau to upgrade the travel alert to “significant”, signifying the second-highest risk level.

“What I am saying is Turkey is safe enough for the travellers of Hong Kong to go and enjoy their vacation. Of course, we want [the travel alert] to be abolished or at least decreased,” Kemik said.

“The state of emergency will not affect the daily lives of Turkish citizens as well as the vacation of foreign visitors. There is no obstacle as far as international tourism and air traffic is concerned. And also there is no negative security situation in tourist destinations.”

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Some 15,000 Hongkongers travelled to Turkey last year and trade between the two places is worth US$1.5bn. There are 900 Turkish citizens registered as living in Hong Kong.

“On the travel alert per se, I don’t see any kind of major political effect but of course it affects our relations, especially on tourism,” Kemik said.

The diplomat, who was only appointed to the post 10 months ago, said he was committed to bringing closer ties between Turkey and Hong Kong.

“As consul general I want to improve relations between [Turkey and Hong Kong] – such as in culture, education, tourism ... but this travel alert, for me, serves as an impediment especially in areas such as tourism.”

Tourists would be safer and better protected since Turkey was back to business as usual, with a fully functional government and the rule of law being upheld, he added. Authorities have rounded up or arrested thousands of soldiers, police, judges and civil servants since the failed coup.

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Kemik said Turkey was facing a “multidimensional threat”, but did not want to be singled out from a list of other European nations that had suffered recent unrest and threats to public safety.

Earlier this month, a truck attack in France killed 84 people during Bastille Day celebrations in the town of Nice, while in Germany, a Hong Kong family was attacked by an axe-wielding Afghan refugee on a train. The Security Bureau issued an amber alert for both countries, the weakest of three indicators used.

Turkey has suffered 14 suicide bombings, explosions, or attacks since last year – some which targeted well-known tourist districts. The bureau said it would “monitor and assess” the situation.

“I can assure you that Turkey is doing its utmost to prevent this kind of attack [on] citizens and visitors coming in,” Kemik said.

“Our security forces are working very efficiently. They are alert against possible terror attacks. We also have strong intelligence agencies working on this.”

He said the consulate was in contact with the Hong Kong government, and hoped there would be a “positive” outcome.