It's orderly, but more crowded than the Tube, says Boris Johnson of Beijing's subway

Bloggers praise Boris Johnson for taking public transportation in stark contrast to most Chinese officials

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 10:46am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2013, 1:10pm

Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who is on a high-profile visit in Beijing this week, took a ride on the capital’s notoriously crowded subway on Tuesday and said he found it even more “crowded” than the Tube in London.

“It was not the peak hour, yet the traffic was comparable to the rush hour in London,” he said.

Johnson and his crew travelled on Beijing’s No 1 line from Xidan to Gongzhufen in the afternoon, a total of five stops, according to Chinese media reports. He was lucky enough to have secured a seat, after being hailed by curious travellers.

Yet Johnson admitted that he was impressed by the “orderliness” and “cheap cost” of the subway, where riders are charged a flat fare of 2 yuan (HK$2.50).

The comment made by Johnson, a popular foreign leader on China’s social media Weibo with more than 120,000 followers, elicited thousands of sarcastic responses.

“What is the Mayor of London doing on our subway? Even our own mayor hasn’t got on it yet, ” one wrote.

“Was he doing this to mock Beijing’s leaders?” asked another online user.

China's leaders are constantly criticised for avoiding using public transportation and riding in government-paid cars. Many claim the large number of government cars in Beijing has contributed significantly to the the capital's traffic jams. For the same reason, news of foreign leaders bicycling or using public transportation tends to generate praise and admiration.

“I’ve long heard that you take public transportation to work, and you get my full respect,” wrote another blogger.

A keen cyclist himself, Johnson pointed out in a speech he gave earlier this week in Beijing that Chinese visitors were attracted to London because of multiculturalism, fine universities and “beautiful communist bicycles”.