Joint statement by MTR train captains關公廟 Kwan Kung Temple
Jacok Kam Chak-pui, Chief Executive Officer of MTR Corporation Limited
Mr Adi Lau Tin-shing, Operations Director of MTR Corporation Limited
This joint statement is issued in the form of a signed joint petition by train captains of nine MTR rail lines including East Rail Line, West Rail Line, Ma On Shan Line, Tseung Kwan O Line, the Island Line, Kwun Tong Line, Tsuen Wan Line, High Speed Rail, Airport Express and Tung Chung Line.
In response to the violent incidents on 21 July in the lobby and platform of Yuen Long station, we, as train captains, previously issued a joint statement in protest of the MTR Corporation Limited’s (hereinafter “MTR”) failure to acknowledge the errors of its operations control centre and to condemn the Hong Kong Police Force (hereinafter “the HKPF”) for its failure to intervene, leading to the injuries of numerous passengers. MTR even pinned the moral blame of failing to clearing passengers from the affected train on the train captain concerned, causing enormous stress to frontline train captains. After the submission of our joint statement, MTR called for meetings with the team of each rail line; however, the aim of these meetings was simply to collect opinions and suggestions on security matters and distribute a limited quantity of common helmets, which provide inadequate protection in the event of clashes, and regular face masks, which are not an effective barrier against tear gas. Those meetings did not offer any practical measures to protect frontline workers and failed to respond to the demands of our joint statement. They were merely a symbolic gesture, aimed at pacifying frontline workers.
MTR has always prided itself on safety, yet it has allowed the HKPF to damage its valuable reputation on multiple occasions, including: the unreasonable delay in intervening in the violent acts in Yuen Long station on 21 July; the firing of tear gas near open sections of the railway at Yuen Long Station on 27 July, causing a number of tear gas canisters to land on the rail track, severely endangering railway safety; the entry of officers into Yuen Long station on 27 July at night, leading to multiple injuries when frontline staff members and passengers tried to escape out of fear; the firing of tear gas near Tai Wai station on 10 Aug, causing tear gas to enter the station, tunnel and train compartments through the ventilation system and causing discomfort for a number of passengers; the firing of tear gas inside Kwai Fong station on 11 Aug neglecting potential fire hazards; the use of batons and even firearms to disperse evacuating passengers at Tai Koo station on the same day which almost led to a stampede, disregarding the safety of MTR staff and passengers in such confined space of the station entrance and narrow path of escalators. The recent escalating police operations inside and near MTR stations have shown the lack of regard of the HKPF for the safety of railway and stations. Meanwhile, the Company has only expressed “regrets”, rather than any condemnation or warnings over these police actions, and is blindly facilitating the HKPF’s actions by its weak stance. This adds tremendous pressure to frontline workers and exposes our staff to dangerous working environments.
Tear gas canisters release toxic and irritating particles, which can be carried by the wind and adhere to their surroundings/on physical objects. Within MTR stations, there are assorted storefronts, and their products, including accessories and food, may be contaminated by such particles, creating indirect health risks for workers and passengers. These particles may also adhere to the trains themselves, or spread through the ventilation system to other stations––these impacts could be far-reaching. MTR is Hong Kong’s most large-scale mass transit system. Every day, it serves as many as 5,000,000 passengers. There is no doubt that the police’s action of firing tear gas into or even around the perimeter of MTR stations will have harmful effects on countless passengers. As a professional railway company, MTR corporation has the obligation to urge the HKPF to strictly observe guidelines on the use of tear gas, and stop firing tear gas inside train stations or in their perimeter, to avoid negative effects to frontline staff and passengers’ health.
Previously, there have been multiple instances of clashes between police and civilians inside MTR stations, on train platforms, and in shopping centers attached to train stations. If MTR had upheld its duty duly to protect passengers’ safety, and taken the appropriate measures to prevent police from arbitrarily storming into the MTR station, frontline staff and innocent passengers would not have been drawn into the conflicts, and safety risks could have been reduced. So far, MTR has been overly accommodating towards and reliant on the actions of the police, completely losing the ability and authority to independently administer MTR stations and the operation of its trains. In doing so, it has not borne its responsibility to protect the safety of staff members and passengers, potentially implying a failure to abide by the principle of political neutrality, resulting in negative public perception towards staff members. If MTR continues to allow the HKPF to ignore the safe operation of train stations and railway safety, thus failing to protect the safety of frontline staff members and passengers, the repeated occurrence of similar incidents is inevitable.
Three core demands:
1. For MTR Corporation Limited to strongly condemn the HKPF for endangering railway safety on multiple occasions, and to urge the HKPF to seriously consider issues of railway safety before any police actions, including prioritising MTR staff and passengers’ safety, by avoiding the widespread use of rubber bullets and tear gas.
2. For the MTR Corporation Limited to take up the responsibility of ensuring the safety of its staff and passengers, and base its decision to rearrange or alter train services on actual safety concerns on site, rather than blindly complying to police requests and putting its staff and passengers at risk.
3. For the MTR Corporation Limited to thoroughly clean and remove the harmful particles that may have adhered to stations, trains and ventilation systems, and to provide face masks capable of filtering organic chemical substances for frontline workers and passengers before the completion of its cleaning process, so as to minimize health risks and restore public confidence in the MTR transit system.
Train captains of various railway lines have come together to issue this joint statement and demand the Company to directly address the situation. We demand the Company to respond our three demands in an open manner before 16 Aug in order to restore our confidence in working as frontline workers. Otherwise, we would consider the option of refusing to undertake our duties on the grounds of personal safety concerns.
Train Captains from multiple railway lines
12 Aug 2019
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