Monday, January 16, 2012

Guangzhou Subway: Scanner and Balloon Free

In an earlier post I commented on the apparently ineffective use of scanners and the ban on all balloons in Shanghai's subway stations. Several readers made comments regarding a possible (and curious) source for the scanners. If you wish, you can explore the issue on your own.


Guangzhou, Guangdong province also has a very extensive and quickly growing subway system. So, imagine my thoughts when I saw scenes such as this one:

entrance to paid area of Guangzhou subway station

Yes, that's an entrance to the paid area of a subway station, and there aren't any scanners in sight. I haven't yet seen scanners, even ones that are covered up, at any stations in Guangzhou. Scanners were earlier in use for the Asian Games but have since been removed. Is it due to the same radiation concerns that may have prompted their retirement in Shenzhen? I don't know. Maybe it is related to these concerns that were shared on China Daily almost 2 years ago:
In Guangzhou, several commuters said they believe the biggest danger to subway security is a stampede of panicked passengers.

"If there is a risk, it comes from overcrowding, not terrorism," said a middle-aged woman on the city's metro. A middle school student traveling on the same train agreed, adding: "It is too crowded and especially dangerous when you use the escalators."

Guangzhou Metro spokesman Ye said in response: "Guangzhou Metro is crowded but it is absolutely safe. At peak times, our staff helps direct the flow of passengers at the scanning points, on escalators, in elevators and on platforms."
The crowds in some Guangzhou subways stations can indeed be overwhelming, and I say that after having been a regular rider of the highly trafficked Shanghai subway. I really can't imagine what it would be like in those stations if scanners were in place and in full use.

However, not everyone in Guangzhou may agree that the absence of scanners is a good thing. After a case of arson in the subway last year some voiced the desire for stricter security checks to be reinstated. As reported on the website "Life of Guangzhou":
A passenger ignited a gas tank in a subway car along Guangzhou Metro Line 10 Monday, leaving four passengers slightly injured. The workers in the subway did not stop the suspect from taking the gas tank into train.

The suspect, whose surname is Wu, confessed to the police that he wanted to vent his anger through arson because he was unhappy with his life, Guangzhou-based Yangcheng Evening News reported...

Li Guangjin, a local resident, told the Global Times Wednesday that although security checks in the subway delay people during rush hour, he felt it is necessary to avoid danger.

"Both Beijing and Shanghai subway authorities have been following strict security measures in the subway for years, which ensure the security of passengers," Li said. "If the security measures in the Guangzhou subway could be as strict as that of the Asian Games period, it could have prevented the gas tank fire."
My only comment is that while this may indicate the need for better security, it's not clear that scanners are necessary for preventing gas tanks from being brought into stations. Anyways, that was a year ago and the scanners have still not returned. However, it is common to see subway personnel in stations. I would hope they are now alert for people with gas tanks.

So, how about balloons? Here's a sign I saw while entering a subway station:

sign in Guangzhou subway forbidding items such as balloons

That's right, no balloons allowed -- especially ones that resemble the head of Mickey Mouse. They don't appear to follow Hong Kong in distinguishing metallic and non-metallic balloons. Unlike the earlier post I have no balloon adventures to share since nobody in Guangzhou gave me a free balloon this year (though, last year in Guangzhou I received one -- maybe a story for another day).

While I had already shared my frustration over the balloon rule here, I thought that I needed to do something more. But what? Well, the answer came one day in Guangzhou when I saw something that I had never before seen in a subway station in China.

A suggestion box. With comment cards. And a pen.

In great excitement I took advantage of this special opportunity:

suggestion box at a Guangzhou subway station

The attached pen was connected to the box in such a way that it made writing left-handed very difficult, but that didn't stop me. If you can't read my writing the comment I left is:
I think it's wonderful that there are no needless security scanners in place. Great! Please reconsider the ban on non-metallic balloons. It could really ruin some kid's day.
I would like to explain the word "needless". I believe there are conditions where scanners can play an important role. I'm just not convinced they're worthwhile for subway systems -- especially if appropriate checks for radiation haven't been conducted and they're used in the manner as seen in Shanghai.

Since I left my email address on the comment card I'm looking forward to a response. I'll provide an update if I hear anything (note: for confirmation they really possess the card I will ask what symbol was drawn on the back of it).

Immediately after taking the photo of the comment card, I discovered that a tall man in a security uniform was standing next to me. With a concerned expression he asked me what I was doing. I've had similar questions from police lead to unexpectedly interesting experiences so my alertness jumped up a level or two. I explained that obviously I was leaving a comment and expressed my happiness about the lack of scanning machines in the station. I decided it was not worth sharing my thoughts about balloons. After I inserted the comment card into the box he told me that he would be sure to pass my comment on to his superiors. "Fantastic!" I replied and we shook hands.

I then decided I really didn't need to take the subway and left the station. It was such a pleasant day for a walk.

1 comment:

  1. Some Shenzhen subway signs also include knives, axes and guns. The Sz subway is pretty crowded at peak hours, but nonetheless a very safe cheap and fast mode of transport.