Group plans station lobby protest

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Sep 09, 2013 - Page 3

A group of netizens called the “Self-Cooking Citizens” yesterday said it is planning to hold a picnic in the lobby of the Taipei Railway Station to protest a new policy that prohibits lying down, eating and drinking in the station lobby, which it says it suspects is targeted at foreign workers.

The station’s management last month announced that people would no longer be allowed to rest, eat or drink in the lobby because these actions mar the aesthetic of the lobby and can impede the flow of passengers.

However, many people suspect the measure is aimed at preventing gatherings of foreign laborers because the station management did not enact any such regulations until last year, when a group of Indonesian workers gathered in the lobby to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

Immediately afterward, the lobby began to be cordoned off during weekends, but the management later scrapped the measure after several human rights groups slammed it as discriminatory.

“Public spaces belong to everyone — meaning anyone who lives in, goes to school, works, or even just passes by these areas,” the Self-Cooking Citizens said on its Facebook page. “But our government doesn’t seem to think this way. It outsourced the operation of the Taipei Railway Station to the Breeze Center department store, then took away all the chairs in the first-floor lobby and, following the gathering of Indonesian workers for the 2012 Eid al-Fitr holiday, it briefly cordoned off the area.”

The group’s name has a double meaning in Chinese as it is a homonym for “independent citizens” (zizhu gongmin, 自住公民).

The station management has continually insisted that the policy has nothing to do with foreign workers, but the group says it discriminates against minorities.

“We therefore want to express our ‘sovereignty’ over the lobby with a picnic. By lying down, eating and drinking in the lobby we are telling the Taiwan Railways Administration that the station belongs to the people,” it said.

Asked to respond to the planned protest, Taiwan Railroad station master Ku Shih-yen (古時彥) said the picnickers would not be forcibly evicted, but would be gently asked to leave “because the law does not authorize us to take forceful action.”

He reiterated that the policy is devised to maintain the aesthetics of the lobby and ensure the smooth flow of pedestrian traffic.