Musicians plan protest after MTR evicts student carrying a cello

September 25, 2015 10:51
The HKBU student's cello (left) at the center of the controversy, which Richard Bamping (inset) joined with a series of posts on Facebook (right).
Photos: Facebook/Manju Media

At Tai Wai Station on Oct. 3, the noise of the trains could be overcome by the strains of live music.

No, the MTR hasn't signed up a band of half a dozen rockers to entertain the commuters. 

Nothing on such a puny scale.

In fact, more than 1,000 music teachers and students have signed up to protest at the station with their instruments.

The reason for the discord? Heavy-handed tactics by MTR staff at the station.

They prevented a music student at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) who was carrying his cello from taking the MTR Wednesday night.

MTR staff said the instrument was 4 centimeters over the size limit for items allowed on board, Apple Daily reported Friday.

The student, who was going to Kowloon Bay for a rehearsal, was given a warning letter and told he could face a fine of HK$2,000 for a similar violation.

He was escorted out of the station.

As the student didn't have the cash to take a taxi, he re-entered the station through another exit to continue with his journey.

Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra gehu principal Tung Hiu-lo, the student’s teacher, said the incident makes one wonder if arts and culture have a place in Hong Kong.

(The gehu is a bass bowed-string Chinese instrument similar to the cello.)

Just last week, a schoolgirl in uniform was thrown out of the same station because she was carrying a guzheng, a Chinese zither, on her back.

The incidents have provoked a public uproar.

A music teacher named Mavis has set up a Facebook page calling for teachers and students of Chinese and Western music to stage a protest at the station Oct. 3 with their instruments.

Mavis said it is unreasonable and unacceptable for the MTR to crack down on passengers carrying musical instruments while turning a blind eye to parallel traders (who travel on the same East Rail Line) with bulkier goods.

An MTR representative said the regulations on oversize luggage apply to all passengers and are aimed at avoiding the causing of obstructions inside train compartments and disturbance to other passengers.

The HKBU’s department of music said it would write to the MTR requesting that its students be allowed to travel on its trains to school with their musical instruments.

Meanwhile, Richard Bamping, the Hong Kong Philharmonic's principal cellist, was quoted in a report on as saying on Facebook he was told by an MTR hotline staffer that passengers carrying a cello would not be welcome on the MTR.

Bamping said "it would be an awful legacy to have discouraged a young generation from following their dreams!".

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