Police detain mother over subway safety petition

By Xie Wenting Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-17 1:35:04

A girl signs a petition at Gulou Station on Subway Line 2 on November 23. Meng Zhaohong started collecting signatures from passengers on the birthday of her son, who was electrocuted at the station 2 years ago. Photo: CFP
A girl signs a petition at Gulou Station on Subway Line 2 on November 23. Meng Zhaohong started collecting signatures from passengers on the birthday of her son, who was electrocuted at the station 2 years ago. Photo: CFP  

Police detained a bereaved mother at Fuxingmen Station and warned her to stop gathering signatures there for a petition to improve subway safety following the death of her son, warning her that she was creating a public disturbance.

For the past three weeks, Meng Zhaohong has been gathering signatures at subway stations around Beijing every evening from Monday to Friday, because her son Ma Yue, a 22-year-old student, was electrocuted at Gulou Station in 2010.

"Her son being electrocuted to death is one thing. The measure she used for gathering signatures and making an impact is another. It has disturbed the social order," said Zi Xiangdong, the media officer of the Municipal Public Security Bureau.

Meng alleges that her son's death was caused by an electric current on the platform, which led her son to fall on the track, and has been pushing for independent monitors to oversee the subway's safety measures, as well as glass safety walls on the older rail lines.

Since November 23, which would have marked her son's 24th birthday, Meng has been to five stations, all along the Line 2, where her son died. She has collected more than 5,000 signatures.

Meng was at Fuxingmen Station on Friday night, where she held posters calling for 10,000 people to sign her petition. More than an hour later, Meng was asked by police to go with them.

"When I arrived at the station, the police were there. They told me not to stand in the area for entrance and exit," said Meng.

Meng said she had no idea why police came back to take away her posters and tried to drag her to the police station.

"I told the police I wouldn't go with them until my lawyer came. However, they took my posters and pushed and dragged me so that I fell down the floor," said Meng.

"I cried on the floor for a long time, remembering my dead son. Because more passengers came to watch, the police stopped and waited for my lawyer to come," Meng said.

Meng says authorities have denied there is closed-circuit video footage of Ma falling on the track, making her son's death a mystery.

She told the Global Times that every time she goes to the subway to collect signatures, police show up. "But it's the first time they took me to the police station," she said.

Meng says she hopes that the petition will attract attention, and ultimately be sent to the National People's Congress (NPC).

Meng says she has three demands. First, authorities should install safety gates. Second, closed-circuit camera footage of the subway platform should be kept by a third party. Third, a third-party organization should assess the safety of the subway, and release the results to the public.

Zhu Lijia, a public management professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that although Meng's intentions are good, it is inappropriate for her to organize a petition drive at a busy traffic hub.

"It disturbs transportation order. Besides, it may bring security risks. The petition will attract many onlookers, which may cause trampling or theft," said Zhu.

Zhu noted that Meng could resort to other measures, like writing to the mayor and finding delegates to the NPC to support her.

Zhang Junmin, a lawyer with Fengyi Law Firm, said that Meng should have permission form the subway company and the police station to organize such an event at the subway station.

"The subway is a crowded place. Organizing a petition drive in such place may cause accidents like fighting due to the crowds, in which case it would be hard to determine who should be responsible," said Zhang.

Meng noted that she has tried other ways to resolve the subway's safety issues, but they did not work. "For instance, I've sent Ma's case to the police, but it was turned down."

"If a better way to let related organizations improve the subway safety can be proposed to me, I will drop the petition," Ma said. "Otherwise I will resume the petition at the subway one month later."

Posted in: Society, Metro Beijing

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