07:28 GMT +307 December 2019
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    State Department Updates Hong Kong Travel Advisory, Urging 'Increased Caution Due to Civil Unrest'

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    Earlier, in response to US President Donald Trump's claims that China was "moving troops to the border with Hong Kong," China's Foreign Ministry stressed that the city falls exclusively within China's jurisdiction, and urged the US to stop "prying into Hong Kong affairs."

    The US State Department's travel.state.gov website updated its 'Country Information' section for the Chinese autonomous city of Hong Kong to 'Level 2' on Wednesday, urging travellers to "exercise increased caution" "due to civil unrest."

    The rating saw the city's status jump up from Level 1, which calls on travellers to 'exercise normal precautions'. The State Department's travel advisory has four levels, with Level 3 urging US nationals to 'reconsider travel', and Level 4 simply saying 'do not travel'.

    In the explanatory section, the State Department pointed to political demonstrations taking place across the city, including at the Hong Kong International Airport, and said that while most of these "have been peaceful...some have turned confrontational or resulted in violent clashes."

    The website urges travellers to maintain caution, including avoiding areas where demonstrations are taking place, keeping "a low profile," monitoring local media for updates, and following the US Consultate General in Hong Kong on Facebook and Twitter.

    Earlier Wednesday, Canada similarly updated its travel advisory website, urging any Canadians in Hong Kong to "exercise a high degree of caution."

    Airport Clampdown

    Also on Wednesday, Hong Kong International Airport restricted access to its terminals to people with tickets as a security precaution after two days of protests resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

    "Only departure passengers with a valid air ticket or boarding pass for a flight in the next 24 hours and a valid travel document will be allowed to enter the terminal building," the airport authority said. Those wishing to accompany passengers were asked not to come "unless absolutely necessary."

    Protesters use luggage trolleys to block the walkway to the departure gates during a demonstration at the Airport in Hong Kong
    © AP Photo / Vincent Yu
    Protesters use luggage trolleys to block the walkway to the departure gates during a demonstration at the Airport in Hong Kong

    Late Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry accused Washington of helping to incite chaos in the country after senior US lawmakers formally condemned what they said was Beijing's 'violent crackdown' on Hong Kong protesters.

    "The US has denied its involvement in the ongoing violent incidents in Hong Kong on many occasions," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said. "However, the comments from those members of the US Congress have provided the world with new and powerful evidence of the country's involvement," she added.

    Earlier, President Trump insisted that he "can't imagine why" anyone would blame him or the United States for the "problems" in Hong Kong.

    On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the violent actions of the protestors, who paralysed the city airport for two days, blockaded the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, and attacked police stations, were pushing the autonomous city into a "vortex of chaos."

    US and Chinese diplomatic officials have clashed repeatedly over alleged US 'meddling' in Hong Kong's affairs. Last week, a State Department spokesperson called China a "thuggish regime" after Beijing disclosed the personal information of a US diplomat who allegedly met with leaders of Hong Kong's 'pro-democracy movement'. The State Department has accused Chinese media of going "from irresponsible to dangerous" in its reporting of US diplomats' activities in the city. Chinese officials have repeatedly demanded that US diplomats in Hong Kong refrain from interacting with or providing guidance to the demonstrators, and called on them to stick to their main duties.

    Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 after the UK formally relinquished its administration over the colony, but has enjoyed a far greater degree of autonomy, legislative and administrative discretion than China's formal autonomous regions, which include Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Guangxi. The city saw an outbreak of mass protests in early June over an extradition bill which would have allowed authorities to extradite criminal suspects to other jurisdictions. The protests prompted the local government to indefinitely suspend the bill, but protests have continued, with demonstrators now demanding the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill, amnesty for protesters held by police, an inquiry into police actions during the protests, and universal suffrage in local elections.

    A riot police raises a warning flag as they try to disperse anti-extradition bill protesters by tear gas at Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong, China August 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
    © REUTERS / Tyrone Siu
    A riot police raises a warning flag as they try to disperse anti-extradition bill protesters by tear gas at Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong, China August 11, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
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