Shortly after I left the US, I saw that the US Department of State had a registry for those of us who are abroad for extended periods – the program is called STEP (Smart Traveller Enrollment Program). I realized that when I first moved to Hong Kong, there was no one here who would even notice I were gone, especially after my program at CUHK had ended and I had not yet a full-time job, so I figured enrollment was the least I could do to try to give someone an idea as to my whereabouts.
In any case, I have found it useful in that I get these regular “American Citizen Services” e-mails from my local consulate, where I am informed of travel warnings (e.g., if an American embassy was bombed someplace, I’d be advised not go there), weather warnings (when major typhoons were developing in the area, I’d get notice), and other useful administrative info (consulate public holiday hours, and most recently, voter information).
But most recently I got the following advice in an e-mail:
While Hong Kong and Macau are very safe environments, the U.S. Consulate General would like to take the opportunity to remind the U.S. citizen community that no environment is without risk. Residents and visitors should exercise caution when in nightclub districts or districts known for drinking, including Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai in Hong Kong, particularly in the late night or early morning hours. The Hong Kong Police Force has reported several incidents of both petty and violent crime in these areas, some involving physical assault. We encourage everyone in these areas late at night or early in the morning to be alert to your surroundings and to avoid any altercations. If you encounter any problems, please call 999 immediately; there are English-speaking operators on duty at all times. The response time of the police is excellent.
It made me wonder what could have prompted this “alert,” since this has pretty much always been the case. I have seen drunken gweilos get into bar fights now and then – and it is a curiosity how it doesn’t happen more often with all the alcohol-filled merriment on just about every day of the week!
In any case – for my fellow Americans abroad, please do sign-up for the e-mails and registry. And yes, exercise some caution in Lan Kwai Fong and Wanchai!