A proposal by the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) to permanently ban sitting in Taipei Railway Station’s main hall has received a mixed reaction online, with some social media users vowing to launch a sit-in at the station.
Gatherings at the hall have been prohibited since Feb. 29 in accordance with the Central Epidemic Command Center’s policy of reducing crowd sizes in public places.
A Facebook user organizing the sit-in said that the hall is a public space and there is no legitimate reason to ban sitting on the floor.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
He said he suspected that the proposal was made due to business considerations and demanded that the TRA allow people to sit in the hall again after the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control.
One social media user, Huang Yi-chung (黃益中), said that he has fond memories of sitting in the station’s main hall.
“Before going home to Hsinchu, I would arrive at the train station at least half an hour early so that I could buy a TRA lunchbox — pork chop and rice — and sit in the hall to eat before boarding,” Huang said. “This is a memory that I share with all train travelers and migrant workers. The ban would cause the city to lose a cultural memory.”
However, another social media user questioned why people should be allowed to sit on the hall’s floor, saying that even Tokyo Station does not have such a policy.
“Following the logic [of people opposing the ban], should we not open the halls at the train stations in Taichung and Kaohsiung, or at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport? Why do we have to turn a city’s gateway into a marketplace?” they asked.
They also rejected the argument that the ban discriminated against migrant workers, who often gather at the station on holidays or to celebrate events such as Islam’s Eid al-Fitr.
The TRA allowed people to sit on the floor because they used to have to line up at the station to buy tickets for major national holidays, and people have gradually taken it for granted and thought it was accepted practice, they said.
“‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’ Since when do citizens have to accommodate the cultural events of expatriates?” they added.
Another social media user, Chen Yen-shuo (陳延碩), said the issue is that there is not much seating within the station.
“Whenever I have to wait at the station, I can only stand, because I can never find a place to sit. It is even more inconvenient for those with disabilities or carrying a lot of luggage,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and the TRA should quickly come up with a solution satisfactory to all parties.
TRA Director-General Chang Cheng Yuan (張振源) said that as the nation is working to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the station cannot be used for Eid al-Fitr celebrations or the sit-in, adding that the policy is being enforced for the sake of public health.
Anyone sitting in the hall would be asked to leave, he said.
Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said that the hall is an important gathering place for travelers and migrant workers.
He said that he has told the TRA that it needs to communicate with the public and that it should not think that its job is simply to make sure that the hall looks clean.
“With the help of experts, the TRA should try to find a solution that ensures that the hall is kept clean, that all passengers can move about the station unimpeded, that people can quickly evacuate in an emergency and that migrant workers have a place to meet and gather,” Lin said.
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