Mar 31, 2013
LETTER FROM BEIJING
By Kor Kian Beng China Bureau Chief In Beijing
Two incidents made Chinese commuters cry foul recently - foul- smelling, that is.
People who boarded a Beijing subway train on March 17 were hit by the stink of excrement. Spotting the obnoxious pile on the floor of the train carriage, they pinched their noses and scrambled for seats as far away as possible. Photos swiftly made their way online.
One of those who posted photos was a commuter known only as Mr Dan, who got on the train at the Wangjing West station on the Line 13 route heading to the Dongzhimen interchange.
"The terrible smell hit me the moment I boarded the train. I thought it was odd that the seats were empty and there was a pile of poop on the floor," he recounted on his Sina Weibo microblog.
The commuters had to put up with the stink for another four stops until the train reached Dongzhimen.
A subway station employee told Beijing News daily: "As the trains stop for only a short while at each station, there is not enough time for our staff to clean up until the train reaches the interchange."
He added that there had been such incidents before and that children who could not control the call of nature were responsible.
In the other incident last month, a rubbish bin became an instant toilet for a teenage schoolboy in southern Guangzhou city.
Incredulous commuters took photos of the boy in school uniform relieving himself atop the bin as a train station worker tried to stop them.
[Note: The train station worker "tried to stop them", as in tried to stop the (incredulous) commuters from taking photos of the boy relieving himself. NOT tried to stop the schoolboy from relieving himself.]
Netizens were generally sympathetic. The boy was just doing what came naturally in an "urgent" situation, they said, blaming the train operator for not providing enough toilets. Some had some mock praise for train station staff.
"It means the rubbish bins are clean enough for the boy to want to sit on them," said one netizen.
[And that explains it. Even the train station staff was sympathetic.]
Many did not find the incidents amusing. They said they showed a lack of social etiquette despite decades of modernisation and growth that have turned China into the world's second-largest economy.
Complaints about poor social behaviour have been on the rise, in part because of rural migrants flocking to the cities, which in turn leads to crowded trains and raised tension.
In a poll by a Beijing subway operator last December, netizens listed their pet peeves in this order: fighting over seats, talking loudly, littering and eating on trains.
Accountant Li Bin, 39, recently witnessed a fight between two women who had knocked into each other. "I saw one grabbing the other's head and knocking it onto her kneecap," she said.
Technician Tang Qingning, 39, found himself seated next to a man who feasted on a bucket of fried chicken throughout their hour- long train journey last month. "To make it worse, another passenger was eating buns non-stop. Luckily they didn't litter," he said.
Commuters say one reason for bad or inconsiderate behaviour is the lack of enforcement. Beijing train stations put up a list of don'ts for commuters but there are no penalties for those who ignore them.
The notice only says that "those flouting the rules will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and may be referred to the policy and relevant departments".
Beijing hotel employee Chen Xiyang, 21, who commutes to work by train, believes the authorities should impose heavy fines to stop bad behaviour.
Others like Ms Li think good behaviour starts with education. "Schools should play a more pro-active role. We should scrap Math
Olympiad classes and hold more civic morality lessons instead," she suggested. "There is hope only if our young learn how not to be a nuisance to others."
Like learning when to hold it in, for a start.