The rand was weaker on Tuesday afternoon as investors shied away from risk assets in the wake of escalating political protests in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s airport was closed on Monday, with protests over a contentious extradition treaty to China beginning to take its toll on international markets.

Chinese authorities have hinted that the protests are linked to “terrorism”, said Vanguard Markets managing partner Stephen Innes in a note, adding that that suggested Chinese authorities were gearing up for a more aggressive approach to the protests.

At 2.45pm on Tuesday the rand had weakened 0.61% to R15.3872/$, 0.64% to R17.261/€ and 0.67% to R18.5985/£. The euro was flat at $1.1218.

Gold was up 0.68% to $1,521/oz. The rand gets some benefit from a rising gold price as the precious metal is a key earner of foreign exchange for SA.

In the emerging-market sphere, preliminary elections in Argentina suggest that the country may be getting a populist government in coming months, calling into question whether tough economic reform there would be undertaken.

The rand was only the fourth-worst performing emerging-market currency on Tuesday. A plunge by the Argentinian peso on Monday has seen that currency overtake the rand as the worst-performing currency over the past 30 days. The peso lost 14% against the dollar on Monday, bringing its 30-day loss to 21%, while the rand has fallen 9.1%.

Italian politics is also in focus, with a collapse of that country’s coalition government seemingly imminent, pointing to new elections in October.

It's easy to ignore these issues when they are few and far between but we seem to be speaking about a new potential problem on a regular basis,” Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said.