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Bus seats given up for cash
By Shao Xiaoyi (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-18 05:47

SHAOXING, Zhejiang Province: Buses in Chinese cities are always crowded, especially during rush hour.

So whether to give up a seat to someone more in need has long been regarded as a touchstone for a person's virtue.

Now a controversial scheme is paying people to offer their seats to the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women and women with babies.

In Shaoxing those who allow such people to sit down get a "Loving Care Card" worth 0.5 yuan (6 US cents) from the Shaoxing Public Transport Company.

When 10 cards have been collected the passenger can transfer the amount to their bus tickets.

So far, about 2,000 "Loving Care Cards" have been given out.

The scheme began on 200 or so buses in Shaoxing on April 1.

So far many passengers have given up their seats without actually getting the award cards, according to a survey conducted by the Shaoxing Public Transport Company.

The scheme is aimed at encouraging people to give their seats to more needy strangers and creating an atmosphere of civility, according to Qiu Weiying, a senior official with the Shaoxing Public Transport Company.

Usually, people do offer their seats on Shaoxing buses, but not in rush hour, Qiu said.

The scheme is expected to last a year, Qiu added.

However, there is a lot of talk about whether it is suitable to "buy" morals.

An online investigation by local media found 62.31 per cent of people objected to the "Loving Care Card" project. "Offering one's seat to others is thought to be good manners and is based on one's own free will. Why should we use money to stimulate our folk?" said a middle-aged man surnamed Liu.

"Such a pragmatic way depresses me," Liu added. He also believed someone who really wanted to offer up a seat should not accept the "Loving Care Card."

Others thought the scheme was reasonable. "It will help restore civility and get young men offering their seats to others," said Grandpa Zhang, 61, who has lived in Shaoxing for 30 years.

Wang Qi, a student at Shaoxing University, thought "more expectant women, seniors and invalids can enjoy the comfort of a seat."

"But it is hard for people to do things out of the kindness of their hearts if money is always offered," said Wang.

Zhang Yuesong, assistant professor from the Law Institute of Shaoxing University, said the scheme might get people into the habit of offering their seats to others, although some would just do it for the money at first.

(China Daily 04/18/2005 page3)

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