Hong Kong MTR

Socialist Action chairwoman in court over MTR luggage dispute involving plastic sticks

Left-wing activist Sally Tang Mei-ching denies violating railway by-laws over attempted carriage of three plastic sticks as tall as her

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 9:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 September, 2016, 9:13pm

A social activist who carried three plastic sticks as tall as her into an MTR station last September denied violating railway by-laws on Thursday and questioned the rationale behind the transport operator’s luggage size restrictions.

Sally Tang Mei-ching, 26, told Tuen Mun Court she had not even been aware she had been caught out by railway staff for the alleged violation at Kowloon Tong station on September 25, despite being confronted by uniformed officers.

Tang, the chairwoman of Socialist Action, a Trotskyist political organisation, pleaded not guilty to one summons for bringing prohibited items of baggage and another of failure to produce proof of identity for inspection.

The court heard that the MTR has since January 2009 restricted passengers on urban routes from carrying more than one piece of luggage, with the Airport Express and Light Rail exempted. Each item of luggage is required to comply with restrictions that stipulate the combined length, width and height of an item should be no more than 170cm, and that no single side may exceed 130cm.

Ho Yan-yi, of the MTR’s Customer Service Rapid Response Unit, testified that she saw Tang with three white plastic sticks that were taller than her in the station’s paid area at 6.45pm.

Suspecting a violation of the by-laws, Ho came forward to measure the height of the sticks. But Tang walked on despite warnings she could face prosecution.

Tang was also said to have ignored Ho’s request to see her identity card, after Ho found all three sticks measured 160cm.

Prosecutors argued Tang’s luggage could not have been carried on the railway without a risk of injury or damage to railway property, or without causing a nuisance or inconvenience.

Deputy magistrate Joseph Lee Jo-ey was told the MTR had intended to minimise passengers’ risk of electrocution by limiting the height of their baggage.

But Tang questioned why then such limitations had been relaxed last month, when registered commuters were given the go-ahead to carry musical instruments and sports gear up to 145cm in height.

The MTR’s senior legal executive Wong Wing-fai replied: “I won’t call that a relaxing of the rules as the 130cm still applies to regular passengers.”

The case continues.