My Take

Hong Kong's MTR hits a major wrong note in cello case

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 September, 2015, 2:14am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 September, 2015, 2:55am

The MTR has done it this time. An online campaign is being organised against the railway company after a university music student was tailed, detained and interrogated because he tried to get on a train carrying a cello.

The musical instrument was considered an oversized item and the student was threatened with a HK$2,000 fine before being let go.

MTR staff seem to be partial to picking on music students.

Last week, a schoolgirl was ejected from Tai Wai Station for carrying a guzheng, or Chinese zither. A few days later, another student carrying a cello in a case was refused entry at Hung Hom station.

Meanwhile, parallel-goods traders have for years been getting away with carrying bulky goods across the border.

Admittedly, the situation has improved since the MTR cracked down on the trade recently because of public pressure and local resistance against the practice. Still, carriers of bulky goods can still be spotted daily at key transit stations such as Lo Wu and Kowloon Tong.

If you want to get an idea of some of the more outlandish items being carried aboard trains, check out a Facebook page run by a concern group called Ma On Shan People, Ma On Shan Matters.

A television set, a washing machine, piles of carton drinks, a mattress and a loaded supermarket trolley are just some of the more outrageous examples.

While the MTR remains a world-class transport operator, its staff training leaves much to be desired.

It's difficult not to think MTR staff pick on easy targets like young students while selectively ignoring others who might fight back.

When interviewed, Laurent Perrin, assistant principal cellist of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, said he had never had any problem with his cello on the MTR system during all his 17 years here in Hong Kong.

You really wonder why he had no trouble while three local kids got singled out just this month.

I have no problem if the MTR enforces its bylaws across the board. In fact, if the MTR had done so, parallel trading would not have flourished in recent years and subsequently blown up into a major social and political crisis. You just don't want to see its staff keep picking on kids.