Hundreds of train 'seat robbers' hit in Chinese blitz on bad behaviour

Hundreds of train 'seat robbers' hit in Chinese blitz on bad behaviour
A woman on the train from Shanghai to Fuyang bickering with a passenger when caught stealing a seat.
PHOTO: Video screengrab

Chinese railway police detained 452 train travellers for commandeering other passengers' seats in a clampdown on bad behaviour on the rail system, state broadcaster China Central Television reported on Sunday.

Officers investigated 2,856 cases of disruption of public order on the rail system in the clampdown triggered by a wave of public concern about seat robbers.

Recent cases have involved people refusing to consider the needs of other travellers. Rail officials said a drunk woman who occupied another person's seat on December 1 was held for seven days by Beijing and Shanghai railway police after getting into a row with staff and other passengers.

That same week, a woman who occupied three seats on a row in a train cabin that was not assigned to her was ejected by police after several warnings and detained for five days.

Videos of "seat robbers" who refuse to sit in their assigned seats on crowded trains and who are rude to train staff have gone viral on social media websites.

In August, a doctoral student named Sun was named online and bombarded with hostile phone calls and social media messages after a video was posted of him refusing to vacate a woman's seat on a high-speed train to Beijing.

Sun was forced to lock an online payment app on his phone after online vigilantes tried to access his account with his phone number, Beijing Youth Daily reported.

Sun later published a video apologising to the "whole country" for "seriously violating social ethics, hurting the woman and being a bad influence on society" and made a 90-degree bow, a traditional gesture of contrition.

Seat robbing is one of a range of offences that can affect a person's social credit score in China.

The system, built up on a database of "untrustworthy persons subject to enforcement", can disqualify people with poor ratings from flying or booking certain classes of travel on trains, but it has also raised concerns among human rights advocates.

The railway's peak season comes during the Lunar New Year, when 10 million train trips are made every day, long queues form at railway stations and people buy tickets on seat booking web platforms such as Alibaba and Meituan Dianping. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

Rail police are reminding travellers to be courteous during the new year period and that hogging seats, travelling without tickets and blocking train doors are illegal.

Under Chinese law, those guilty of minor offences will also be subject to warnings or 200 yuan (US$30) fines at most, while serious offenders may be detained for between five and 10 days and be fined up to 500 yuan.

This article is first pubished in South China Morning Post. 

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