Passengers run for their lives ... all because foreigner ‘fainted’ on Shanghai train

Opinions divided on whether incident reflects lack of concern for someone in need, or panic over a possible terrorist incident

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 2:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 August, 2014, 5:57pm

A foreigner collapsing on the Shanghai metro caused passengers to flee the carriage and triggered a stampede to the exits, in a bizarre incident captured on camera.

Filmed on the evening of August 9, the video – released this morning by CCTV – shows a white man slumping over sideways in his seat and then rolling onto the floor of the subway car.

As he hits the floor, passengers start running away from the man, leaving the carriage almost empty.

At the next stop, passengers are seen scrambling out of the train, with at least one man almost getting trampled in the stampede.

The commotion may have been partly caused by a fellow passenger shouting “Accident!” after the foreigner collapsed, according to CCTV’s description of the video.

The footage then cuts to a scene of the foreigner on his feet and looking dazed as two people, likely metro staff, inspect the carriage. Finding nothing, the staff leave and the foreigner takes a seat as the doors close.

Since its posting at 10.22am on Wednesday, the video has been viewed more than 13,000 times and in its first hour on Weibo received over 4,300 comments and nearly 2,000 shares.

The passengers’ reaction – to flee instead of helping the man who fainted – was criticised by netizens. But the incident also speaks volumes about the current tensions in China over possible terrorism incidents, according to others.

Verified blogger Li Zhiren said it was unsurprising that people ran out of the train given the increasing number of alleged terrorist incidents in Yunnan and Xinjiang provinces in recent months.

One of the most shocking incidents occurred at a train station earlier this summer, when men armed with knives attacked people at a Kunming train station in Yunnan province. In Taiwan, a knife-wielding assailant stabbed passengers at random on the Taipei subway in May, leaving four dead.

“People have been strained and [are a bundle of] nerves nowadays as terrorist attacks have been widespread all over the world. In the closed space of a subway train, a stranger’s abrupt collapse … can trigger every frightened person to flee from the scene,” Li said.

His feelings were echoed by other bloggers, including one who identified himself as “Obviously bada”.

“Too much has happened in recent years – there were arson [attacks] on buses and knife attacks at railway stations, which has made people really on edge in public spaces nowadays,” he said.

Potential terrorism was not the only concern. Many who saw the video focused on what they deemed was an inappropriate response to someone in need.

Some were surprised that none of the passengers called emergency services. In typical Weibo fashion, many of the comments had a sarcastic edge.

"Seriously, this is the quality of the people?” one blogger said.

"This is exactly the typical reaction of Chinese people,” another commented.

Some of the most popular comments on the response feed were those that mocked Shanghai as a large and unfriendly city. “Shanghai people have such a good quality!” said a verified blogger from Chengdu. His remark received 955 likes.