Posted by: hksounds | October 4, 2015

Cellists and the MTR

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colonial flag

Sounds of a different sort. Today was a long work day and I wasn’t expecting to stumble into a lively citizens’ actions in the local MTR station but that’s exactly what happened. At first I couldn’t make any sense out what I was seeing as the signs were all in Chinese as was the shouting. The large Hong Kong colonial flag that was being waved overhead simply added to my confusion.

I had read earlier in the week about the outrageous behavior here of the local station’s staff ejecting music students from entering the trains due to their large instruments. Nothing is likely to get my attention faster than someone challenging a cellist, which was the instrument banned, and one of the students was apparently given a stiff fine and some sort of unspecified warning. Needless to say, this raised the ire of many music fans in Hong Kong, of which I am one. Apparently on the Chinese language social media, a protest demonstration was set for this afternoon but all had not gone accor20151003_180434ding to the musicians’ plans as the anti-parallel trader protest group showed up and, according to one bystander with a cello, had ‘hijacked their protest.’ It can’t have come as a surprise to the organizers that such might well happen as the anti-parallel traders have been very vocal and demonstrative on numerous occasions in other locations and whether the musicians and their supporters want it or not, the issues do overlap, as the term ‘double-standard’ was used freely by the musicians and their supporters with respect to the MTR’s failure to stop the traders in similar fashion. This makes it likely that any organized and well publicized event will likely incur a similar result. My suggestion was to do flash mobs at random days and times to gain attention and keep the focus on this issue.20151003_182031

There were others there to support them including many musicians holding western instruments and instrument cases. One guy had a sign and a recorder. Not quite a cello but some sign of musical solidarity. I saw some doubl20151003_183241e basses, a very large horn case, perhaps a tuba? Lots of guitars, a trombone, a clarinet, one of those mouth keyboardy thingies and for some reason a guy with a hockey stick. It’s pretty long and might also have run afoul of the MTR rules. I figured that maybe he was showing solidarity in his own, possibly Canadian, way. I spotted some musicians of Chinese musical instruments that were of considerable size who were there in support.

Musician with large Chinese instrument case being interviewed by RTHK reporter

Musician with large Chinese instrument case being interviewed by RTHK reporter

I believe the MTR  Corporation’s policy is unreasonable and some accommodation must be made to allow musicians and music students to freely use the public transport system in Hong Kong. The hostility on this issue is connected to the actions of the parallel traders who buy goods from Hong Kong and take them back to Mainland China for resale. These traders carry on multiple, overstuffed bags, block the aisles and exits but are never confronted by MTR staff. This has led to a nativist reaction against the Mainlanders which has cropped up in a number of ways. By turning a blind eye to the parallel traders, aka, Mainlanders, but going after local students, the MTR has just stoked the xenophobic fires that are simmering in many hearts here. The best you could say about the MTR20151003_185620 is that it is a poorly thought out policy and at worst it is a deliberate slap in the face to the local people.

I had fully intended to voice my objections to the MTR Customer Service desk during the week but the lines were always quite long and I decided it wasn’t that important for them to hear from me and I went home. I wish I had complained to have made my position clear and I will definitely do that the next time I go in the station.
All I could do to show my solidarity for the cellists was to hold up my HK Phil – Club Bravo membership card as a token representative of the listeners and music lovers everywhere who want to stand up for cellos and the people who accompany them.

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