Some find Shanghai Metro food ban proposal hard to swallow

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 September, 2013, 4:53am

Shanghai plans to ban eating and drinking in its subway carriages, a move that would bring the Metro's rules more closely in line with those of other international cities' subways. But the proposal has ignited a heated debate among residents.

The revised subway regulations, reviewed by municipal legislators on Tuesday, list consuming food and drink alongside spitting, smoking, urinating, defecating and begging as activities banned on trains. Offenders could face fines of up to 500 yuan (HK$630).

The Shanghai Municipal People's Congress said that 80 per cent of people supported the ban after the proposal was published six months ago to gauge public opinion, according to the Shanghai Morning Post. The report did not say how many people had been surveyed.

Shi Lei , a local people's congress delegate, said he was "relieved" by the proposal, according to a report by Shanghai People's Radio.

"One of the basic principles in a civilised society is not to bring trouble to others and not to affect others negatively," he said. "Even if you have tens of thousands of reasons to eat or drink on the subway, you have by default polluted the environment."

But other delegates disagreed.

"What's the definition of food? Will having a piece of chocolate or candy affect the environment or other passengers?" one delegate told the Shanghai Morning Post. "How about the law's implementation? During peak hours, the priority should be to guarantee the safety of subway operations."

Another delegate suggested adopting the softer approach of calling on the public to refrain from eating on trains.

Local residents are also divided on the matter. One internet user wrote on his microblog that he supported the new regulation because he could smell "rotting vegetables" in subway carriages every morning.

But another internet user said he could not understand why eating on the subway should be banned while it was allowed on buses and other trains.

Professor Gu Jun , a sociologist from Shanghai University, said he did not think that eating on the subway was a nuisance.

"If you think the food smell is bad, you should also ban people from using perfume," he told the South China Morning Post. "I want to ask the lawmakers: 'What's the goal of banning food on the subway?' Hong Kong bans it, so we in Shanghai should follow? I don't think so."

Shanghai would be the third mainland city to forbid passengers from consuming food and drink on its subway network. Guangzhou banned it in 2009, followed by Xian in 2011.