More than 2,500 people have signed up for a protest set to take place on the evening of October 3 against the “selective” enforcement of bylaws by the public transport operator.

The event page for the demonstration, ‘Let’s bring our musical instruments to take MTR’, was created after a Baptist University music student was warned by MTR staff for bringing his cello on the East Rail Line in Kowloon Bay. The student boarded the train at Tai Wai Station, where he was followed by a plainclothes staff member, Manju Media reported. When he arrived at the next station, Kowloon Tong, uniformed staff were waiting for him on the platform.

He was then brought into a room for interrogation where his cello was measured to be at 134 centimeters tall, 4 centimeters over MTR’s height limit. A warning letter was issued and he was escorted out of the station. With no cash to take a taxi, he re-entered the station through another exit to hop on the Kwun Tong Line.

A protest was set to bring musical instruments to take MTR.
People are urged to bring musical instruments to the MTR in protest. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Mavis Lung Man-wai, a Chinese hammered dulcimer teacher who is arranging the protest at Tai Wai Station, said: “We strongly oppose the selective enforcement of bylaws by the MTR… [parallel] goods traders have been allowed to travel with washing machines or other oversized items; students or musicians were fined for entering a station carrying only their musical instruments.”

Netizens were also angry that MTR Corporation had arranged a Hong Kong String Orchestra performance last September inside Hong Kong Station, revealing a “double standard”.


Posted by MTR on Friday, 5 September 2014

In a comment on the protest event page, Oscar Li suggested not to gather inside the MTR but around the exits. “I do not suggest doing it inside MTR stations, we should go to places that they cannot control, like exits in Tai Wai Station, and parallel goods collect points in Sheung Shui Station, it would be marvelous if we have a band in every exit.”

Famous cellist 
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Philharmonic’s principal cellist Richard Bamping rang the MTR hotline to ask about their policy on cellos. He said in a post on Facebook that a staff member, Phoebe, told him that musical instruments are considered to be luggage by the MTR and if they exceed the stipulated dimensions no exceptions will be made and carriers will be asked to leave the station. “She [Phoebe] also said the MTR will not offer any extra ticket or extra charge option – the only advice she could give me with her apologies was to leave the luggage at home!”

In a post on their Facebook page, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra said they were aware that this issue may affect both musicians and music lovers. “We are investigating with the MTR to understand further and to explore solutions,” read the post.

The popular Facebook page ‘Mr & Ms HK People’ has also created a new cartoon especially for the incident.

MTR did not allow cello on trains by Mr & Ms HK People
‘Kong Iron’ is Cantonese slang for MTR. Photo: Facebook/Mr & Ms HK People

In light of the strict restrictions, Call4Van, a Hong Kong mobile van hire service, has announced it will also launch a new app called Cello4van in two or three months. The new service will pool together three to four people with large musical instruments to share a van to their destination. “Damn you, MTR. I go to school by vanpooling (with my cello),” they wrote on their Facebook page.

Last week, the MTRC also came under fire after a photo showed three members of staff surrounding a schoolgirl who was not allowed to carry a traditional Chinese musical instrument onto a train. The photo was shared widely on social media.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.