More than 200 people held a two-hour sit-in yesterday in the lobby of the Taipei Railway Station to protest against the Taiwan Railway Administration’s (TRA) new policy banning people from lying down or eating and drinking in the lobby, saying that it is targeted at migrant workers.
The TRA said in an announcement last month that the new policy was proposed on the grounds that the the behavior mars the aesthetic of the lobby and makes it difficult for passengers to move around the station.
Many had suspected the policy change was aimed at preventing gatherings of migrant workers, as no such regulation was in place before a group of Indonesian workers gathered in the lobby to celebrate the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr last year.
Protesters at the sit-in were mainly netizens who came together owing to an online campaign called “Self-Cooking Citizens” (自煮公民), which encouraged people to violate the new policy. They sat down at the black-and-white checkerboard lobby, singing and eating.
Some of the foreign workers celebrated the birthday of a mutual friend, while others shared hometown meals with one another. Members of the Ikatan Pekerja Indonesia Taiwan also shouted “give the space back to the people, give freedom back to migrant workers.”
TRA officials did nothing to stop them, watching the protests from the sidelines.
Chang An-chi (張安琪), a doctoral student of National Chengchi University, said that the campaign was launched in response to the opinions made by Huang Chao-kuei (黃朝貴), a prosecutor of Taiwan High Prosecutors Office’s Tainan Branch last month.
Huang said on his Facebook page that Taipei Railway Station has been “taken over” by foreign workers and asked the TRA to do something about it. He later clarified that the comment was not to discriminate against foreign workers and that he simply spoke from the viewpoint of a passenger.
“We were surprised to read his comments,” Chang said. “Foreign workers have the need for a meeting place. Our government should figure out ways to facilitate that, not to give them a hard time every time.”
Taipei Main Station management should not use excuses of aesthetic “to destroy the cultural diversity of this country either,” she added.
Station master Ku Shih-yen (古時彥) said the railway service has been adopting a lenient approach to handle the issue. They would kindly ask the passengers sitting at the lobby to move, rather than forcibly evict them, he said.
“The lobby is where all the passengers or people sitting wheelchairs need to pass constantly. We only advise people to not lie on the floor for their own safety,” Ku said.
Ku said the station has placed more chairs around the east corner of the lobby, as well as the walking hallway on the east side. He said that it would add 36 more priority seats next month.