Entrepreneur and former Wan Chai District Council Chair Ada Wong Ying-kay has published a statement on Facebook condemning the MTR Corporation’s new “Oversized Musical Instrument Permit” policy, which was rolled out on Monday. The post attracted thousands of shares and likes, with many angry social media users echoing Wong’s sentiments.

The railway company’s announcement came after weeks of controversy and protests over the consistency of the policy’s enforcement and its effect on local musicians. The trial scheme commences on November 2 and will run for four months. Passengers with a valid permit may carry oversized luggage into carriages and stations at any time other than during the morning rush hour of 8:15am-9:15am on weekdays. For musical instruments, the maximum total dimensions should not exceed 235 centimetres, while the maximum length for any one side is set at 145 centimetres.

“It’s a trap,” Wong wrote, “the MTR has been in operation for decades and never was registration required, nor have ‘musical instruments’ ever caused any ‘accidents’. In the past, the policy with regards to musical instruments has always been lax, so I don’t understand why there’s suddenly this new agenda against them.”

Screenshot of Ada Wong’s facebook post. Photo: 黃英琦 Ada Wong via Facebook.

Wong drew attention to two clauses in the policy which state that MTR staff reserved the right to refuse to allow licence-holders with instruments into the station area. Staff may also inspect instruments in the station area and cross-check details on the non-transferable licence with licence-holder’s Hong Kong ID cards. “There are too many flaws with the registration system – MTR staff now have the right to look at your instruments, which means that – in the future – they could easily inspect any passenger’s personal belongings and carry-on items,” Wong wrote.

“If we accept this registration system and comply with it, we’re allowing them to grow in power… The MTR is public transport, it’s a public service, and as such it has a social responsibility and it should not interfere with our lives; rather, they should be thinking of ways to accommodate everyone, especially students and especially instrument-carrying students.”

“In Seoul, the subway not only allows bicycles onto carriages, they design bicycle racks so as to better make use of the space. I’m really angry – what has happened to Hong Kong’s public authorities?”

In September, the MTRC came under fire after a photo, which showed three members of staff surrounding a schoolgirl and forbidding her from bringing a traditional Chinese musical instrument onto a train, went viral. This sparked discussion online, with many saying that the MTRC “selectively enforces” the bylaws and that parallel traders with large-sized luggage are rarely approached by the staff. More than a hundred people then joined a protest on the issue at Tai Wai MTR on October 3.

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Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.