The number of warning letters issued and cases of assault against MTR staff went up significantly last year, and many of these incidents were related to the carrying of oversized luggage. However, the MTR Corporation explained that this was due to an increase in overall passenger flow.

The MTR Corporation said that, every year, around 100,000 passengers carrying oversized luggage are asked to take another mode of transportation, Oriental Daily reported. The company issued 8,100 warning letters last year, which was a 73 percent increase from the year before. In Lok Ma Chau station, the number of warning letters went up from 470 to 2,900.

MTR Fanling Station. Photo: Wikicommons.

MTRC also said that in 2014, there were only 21 cases of assaults targeted at their staff, but in 2015 the number almost doubled to 40 cases. Of these 13 took place in the Sheung Shui station when the By-laws Inspection Unit was on duty looking out for oversized luggage.

“Many passengers buy curtain tracks which exceed the maximum length requirements from the mainland and we won’t allow them onto the train. There’s been a previous accident related to this – we don’t know if they had turned around by accident and hit our staff, or if it was deliberate,” By-laws unit commander Wong Sing-kan told RTHK. Some of these cases had been taken to court, MTRC said.

MTR operations manager Allen Ding Ka-chun said they believe the increase in numbers was caused by an overall increase in the volume of passengers, which in turn resulted in more passengers with oversized luggage.

Ding also said that there were more assaults because the staff had been working hard to enforce the by-laws and maintain the order in the stations. He said that it could not be identified from the statistics whether the numbers reflected a worsening of the parallel trading problem.

Sheung Shui Station. Photo: Wikicommons.

The MTRC is also considering increasing the number of body worn video cameras from three to 16, and extending their service area to Sheung Shui, Lok Ma Chau and Fan Ling stations. Ding said that when the cameras are employed, passengers’ behaviour tends to be more reserved. The company stated that it has consulted the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data’s guidelines and the videos will be deleted after a period of time.

Last 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 by-laws and that parallel traders with over-sized luggage are rarely approached by the staff. More than 100 people joined a protest on the issue at Tai Wai MTR on October 3. The company then introduced a registration system for passengers wishing to bring large musical instruments onto trains; over 2000 have registered over the past three months.

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.