Hong Kong issues travel alert for France, warns against 'non-essential' trips to Paris
Hongkongers seeking assistance abroad can call the 24-hour ImmD hotline at +(852) 1868 or Chinese Embassy in France: +(33) 615742537.
Hong Kong hoisted an amber travel alert for France, urging Hong Kong residents to avoid non-essential travel to Paris and the Ile de France area.
The alert, the lowest of three risk warnings, is the first to be issued to a major western country for at least seven years.
In a statement the Security Bureau said: "Residents who plan to visit France or are already there should monitor the situation, exercise caution, attend to personal safety, avoid travelling to places of large gatherings of people and pay attention to advice of the local authorities.
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Travel arrangements to Paris remain unaffected for tour groups and airlines flying between Paris and Hong Kong despite attacks. Dozens of Hong Kong tour groups to France will continue with their trips and flights to the French capital will continue to take-off.
As of 8.30am, there was no reports of Chinese casualties, state-run Xinhua news agency said, citing the Chinese embassy in the French capital. Hong Kong’s Immigration Department said it had not yet received calls for help through the Assistance to Hong Kong Residents Unit (AHU) hotline.
Ten tour groups from Hong Kong with a total of about 250 people were currently in Paris and all have reported they are safe, said Joseph Tung Yao-chung, Travel Industry Council executive director.
It is not known how many individual travelers from Hong Kong are in Paris, he said.
Tung added that any Hong Kong residents who have already booked trips to Paris can contact their travel agencies to re-schedule or adjust their itineraries.
Jacky Cheung Shun-lai, spokesman for Kuoni, Travel, says his company will have two tours now in Europe that will reach Paris in the next few days. “There are no popular tourist spots near the hostage area. We will see how the situation develops and decide whether the tour should avoid Paris.”
The company will not cancel other tours to France unless the government issues a travel alert, Cheung adds.
Hong Thai Travel Services says the company has one tour of 15 members now in Paris and all are safe. They will continue their journey and return to Hong Kong next week.
Miramar Travel has five tours in Paris at the moment and they will not change their itinerary because the major tourist sights were still open.
Cathay Pacific Airways, which operates 10 weekly flights to Charles de Gaulle airport, said it was checking to confirm dozens of staff, including pilots, cabin crew and Paris-based ground staff were safe. A spokeswoman said this procedure was standard practice following security or disaster events.
The airline announced on Twitter: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the city of Paris. Flights between HK & Paris remain normal."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the city of Paris. Flights between HK & Paris remain normal. Visit our website for latest flight status.
— Cathay Pacific (@cathaypacific) November 14, 2015
Air France, which operates a daily service between Paris and Hong Kong, said immediately after the attack that it would maintain its normal flights schedule in the face of at least one U.S. airline delaying flights. The airline warned of extra security checks for departing and arriving passengers at French land, air and sea borders.
Shum Wai-nam, a Hong Kong activist who just landed in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris at about HKT 4pm, said immigration clearance was smooth. “Security check didn’t step up much, but there are many armed soldiers guarding the arrival hall.”
Shum, who will stay in Paris for one night before heading to Geneva for a United Nations human rights hearing, said he felt “complicated” when he heard about news of the attack on the plane.
Hong Kong’s terrorist threat alert remained moderate, and authorities revealed it was well-prepared to handle an attack following a recent counter-terrorism exercise. Meanwhile, the city’s outbound travel threat alert for France has not yet been activated.
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Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying condemned the terrorist attacks in Paris and expressed his deepest sympathies on the loss of lives and injuries and extended his condolences to the families of the victims.
"While the level of terrorist threat in Hong Kong remains moderate, the Government will stay vigilant and well prepared to protect the lives and property of our public in view of the fast-changing international and regional security landscapes," the Chief Executive said.
The government urged Hongkongers to pay attention to personal safety, exercise caution and listen to announcements by French authorities.
Hong Kong residents who need assistance while outside Hong Kong can call the 24-hour Immigration Department hotline of AHU at +(852) 1868 or contact the Chinese Embassy in France at consular protection hotline: +(33) 615742537.