Traveler Peter Chan wrote a letter to the South China Morning Post, after having traveled with his mother to both Hong Kong and Singapore for a two-week holiday. In it, he asked, “Can Singapore teach Hong Kong how to get priority seats on the MTR?”
He observed differenced between the behaviors of citizens in the two cities, as well as differences in the MTR (Mass Transit Railway) itself.
As an example he mentioned that priority seats are easy to find in Singapore’s MRT, since they are the first ones that can be seen upon entrance, but they are harder to find in Hong Kong.
He also mentioned the success of Singapore’s #StandUpStacey, campaign designed to help the needy get priority seats, in comparison to Hong Kong where commuters on the MRT are so preoccupied with their smartphones that they fail to notice those who need seating, much less give way to them.
Mr. Chan, who is from Sheffield, called out both mainland visitors and locals for doing this, and ended his letter with, “Maybe the Hong Kong MTR needs to come up with its own campaign to make it easier for those in need to get – or be offered – a seat.”
Understandably, netizens were not too happy about Mr. Chan’s letter to the SCMP.
One person, presumably a Hong Kong local, said it was unfair to jump to conclusions about places after spending such a short time there. He said that things on the surface in Singapore may not really be what they seem. He gave the example that while Singapore claims to be a democracy, street protesters are arrested and beaten with a truncheon, but in Hong Kong, people are allowed to protest, and police even make room for it. He also said that in Singapore people are fined for failing to flush public toilets, while in Hong Kong, “authority can get sued for invasion of privacy, if they try catching people in public toilets.”
More pertinent to Mr. Chan’s point in his letter, the netizen said, “Mr Chan, try coming back to HK to stay for a few years … you will find that beneath the hardened surface, Hongkongers of all ethnic backgrounds have a clear sense of what is right and what is wrong. Many times, I have taken buses where the priority seats remain vacant even as able-bodied commuters wriggle to find standing room.”
Another netizen agreed with Mr. Chan’s observation, however, writing, “Based on my observation of the Island Line, 3 in 5 of MTR passengers do not give up their priority seats during morning & evening commutes to the elderly and pregnant women. Not sure whether they are Hk’ers or mainlanders. In contrast, the proportion who give up their priority seats during weekends is probably closer to 4 in 5.
Having noticed the imminent situation, many just continue to thumb through their phones without looking up. Laughably some others actually close their eyes and “pretend” to dose off.
Hong Kong subway travelers do have some bizarre behaviours.”
Yet another person who responded to Mr. Chan’s letter proposed the following solutions: “The MTR does need to have more Priority Seats but those who are eligible to use them need to get tough with obdurate ineligible users.
Ask them to vacate and if they refuse, sit on them.”