More than 400 people yesterday protested at Taipei Railway Station after the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said it would permanently ban sitting on the floor of the station’s main hall.
The protesters were joined by students from Hong Kong who are studying in Taiwan and took the opportunity to support the Hong Kong democracy movement. The students waved Hong Kong independence flags and banners that read: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” — the slogan used in Hong Kong social movements since 2016.
“The TRA will gather public opinions and draft plans that facilitate everyone’s needs for the station as soon as possible,” TRA Deputy Director-General Feng Hui-sheng (馮輝昇) said.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
In response to the protesters, the station yesterday sent 25 staff members to walk around the main hall with placards reminding people to wear masks and practice social distancing, as required by the government to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Twenty railway police officers urged the crowd to disperse as part of disease-prevention efforts, but were ignored by the students and protesters.
In response to media queries on whether the station would issue fines, Station Master Huang Jung-hua (黃榮華) said the station was only urging the protesters to disperse at that point, and was not planning to fine those who refused to leave.
“Taipei Railway Station is an open public space. There has never been a problem with not opening it to the public. It is simply that we are facing a pandemic,” he said, adding that he hoped people would follow the advice issued by the Central Epidemic Command Center.
People often gather in the middle of the hall because there are few other places in the station to sit, one protester surnamed Fan (范) said.
The hall is also used as a gathering place by many migrant workers, demonstrating its importance to Taipei’s multicultural society, he said, adding that the large black-and-white tiled floor is an easy place for people to find when they are meeting.
The main hall is a public space similar to one of the city’s parks, a woman surnamed Yu (余) said.
“Could it be that station authorities feel it is unsightly for people to sit here?” she asked.
The station could consider letting young people use the space to hold activities, she said, adding that she did not feel that people gathering there detracted from the aesthetics of the hall.
“It does not obstruct the station’s ticket sales when people gather here, and sometimes you even encounter different cultures here,” she said.
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