Sun, Sep 23, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Ministries’ plan for Taipei station lobby stirs up controversy

DOUBLE STANDARD?The plan to turn the lobby into a dance arena on weekends came after complaints that foreign laborers were impeding passengers

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) yesterday announced a collaboration with the Ministry of Culture (MOC) that is to turn the lobby of Taipei Main Station into a temporary stage for young dancers during the weekend for the next three months.

Starting this weekend, a group of 80 student performers from Taipei National University of the Arts will take up the lobby space to perform a 20-minute dance piece every Saturday and Sunday at 4:30pm for the next three months. The aim is to bring arts to everyday life, the MOC said.

“A train station is a practical space that people use when going from one place to another. We would like it also to be a place where passengers bump into performing arts by accident and artists are free to create works and interact with passersby,” Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) said. “What we are doing here is an experiment. If it works, we will continue to collaborate with the MOTC to organize similar events across the country.”

The announcement came weeks after the Taiwan Railways Administration’s (TRA) made the controversial decision to cordon off large areas of the lobby, ostensibly in an attempt to allow passengers to pass through the station freely, a measure deemed discriminatory by local labor activists and Southeast Asian migrant workers.

The areas were blocked off from Fridays to Sundays — the days when most migrant workers gather at the station — after the station received complaints that foreign workers were blocking up the station as they gathered in large numbers to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Migrant workers and activists from the Taiwan International Workers’ Association (TIWA) said the measure is targeted at foreign workers.

TRA Director-General Frank Fan (范植谷) said the new measure is not discriminatory, but born out of necessity for “proper management” of the train station.

“We have never prohibited people from sitting around in the lobby. But as more and more people did it, others started to complain. So then we had to deal with it,” Fan said. “We have observed how passengers use the area for a couple of months so that we only block the parts that won’t impede passengers. Besides, the measure is not fixed, we will make constant adjustments.”

Meanwhile, Lung said the MOC has sent invitations to foreign labor groups, welcoming them to come to the show.

“It is important to make the place welcoming and warm for people of all nationalities,” Lung said.

For Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國), the decision to open up the space to artists does not contradict the measure to prevent people from gathering in the lobby.

“It is a public space so it is necessary to plan and manage the way it is used,” he said.

Asked to comment, TIWA researcher Wu Yung-yi (吳永毅) yesterday said it was a good thing that a public space — such as the train station’s lobby area — could be freely used by the pubic.

“I think it’s a good thing that the station’s administration is tolerating a different use of the lobby area rather than it being just a place for people to pass through or to line up to buy a ticket,” Wu said.

“This also shows that having activities going on in the lobby area would not obstruct passengers walking through the station,” Wu added.

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