Date
22 August 2017
Preoccupied with mobile devices or falling asleep, some Hongkongers fail to attend to the needs of fellow travelers on local trains. Priority seats may help. Photos: HKEJ, MTR Corp
Preoccupied with mobile devices or falling asleep, some Hongkongers fail to attend to the needs of fellow travelers on local trains. Priority seats may help. Photos: HKEJ, MTR Corp

Subway etiquette: The debate never stops

Hong Kong commuters are generally known to be considerate, giving up their seats on trains and buses when they see an elderly or a pregnant person or a woman with baby in arms. 

But every now and then we see some people failing to offer the expected courtesies, prompting frowns among fellow passengers and even leading to online posts and photos about the errant citizens.   

Such internet posts and images quickly go viral, serving as a pressure and shaming tactic for travelers to behave better.

Amid the debate surrounding public transport, a netizen has now offered a public explanation as to why he did not offer a seat to another, more needy, passenger on a local train recently.

He said he was too tired from work, and that people would hopefully understand. And he added, for good measure, that he was hoping that fellow passengers wouldn’t take pictures and video clips of the incident and post it on the internet, Sky Post reported Wednesday.

The blog post was widely shared on social networks and other online forums.

The online fervor is not surprising, given a slew of travel-related incidents in the recent past. In February 2013, a woman who was six months into her pregnancy posted a video of two young ladies who failed to get up and offer a seat to her. In the video, the young girls could be seen playing with their mobile phones, barely acknowledging the presence of the pregnant woman standing nearby.

Netizens often criticize that people on public transport stay busy with their mobile devices all the time, ignoring the needs of pregnant women or the elderly. However, there is a section of people who argue that offering seat is a courtesy and not a rule. They assert that it is inappropriate for others to take pictures or photos, post them online and pass instant judgments.

Sky Post quoted a netizen as saying that he once hurt his eye and so was taking rest when traveling on the subway. Thus, he was unaware of a pregnant woman standing nearby. But later when he noticed her, he immediately offered his seat, but the other passengers still kept staring at him, he said.

“I am really afraid that someone will clip it and put it onto the internet, I have so much pressure,” the person said. Some others said they dare not sit for fear of being accused.

The report cited Lam Ching-man, an associate professor at the Department of Social Work at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, as saying that taking video clips has become a habit among Hong Kong people to publicize what they deem as errant behavior by others.

Some people think calling or informing the police would not help, while some take the pictures to gain some sense of achievement, she said.

Lam reminded that not all behavior can be judged from the surface and that people should think twice before taking photos or video.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said some video clips can entail civil proceedings.

“If the behavior is regarded as not appropriate in a subjective way and the clip is uploaded to the internet and hurts the related parties mentally or their reputation … a recovery might be requested,” he said.

– Contact us at [email protected]

AM/JP/RC

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe