Discrimination toward garbage man riles public

Updated: 2011-08-12 08:04

By He Wei (China Daily)

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Driver suspended for trying to force rag picker with smelly bags off bus

SHANGHAI - An online video showing a bus driver and a passenger forcing an elderly rag picker to get off a bus in Shanghai has sparked heated online debate.

Controversy has raged after a passenger on the bus uploaded a video of the incident he took with his mobile phone to youku.com, a popular video portal in China.

The four-minute video shows the rag picker, an elderly man in his 70s with lank gray hair, carrying five bags full of empty bottles, paper and other garbage onto a No 82 bus in the city. A middle-aged male passenger and the female driver confront him and accuse him of "polluting the carriage environment with his smelly garbage" and demand he gets off.

"They are not rubbish, they are my money," the old man shouts to the passenger who keeps trying to grab the bags. He says he is entitled to ride the bus as he has paid the fare using his social security card.

In Shanghai, permanent residents older than 70 are granted free bus rides by swiping their social security cards.

When it arrives at the next stop, the angry passenger grabs the bags and throws them off the bus and then gets off and walks away.

The old man hurries to go pick up his belongings, but the driver closes the door to prevent him.

A netizen named "problematic boy" responded to the video by asking: "What is wrong with a poor old man who is just making a living by collecting garbage? Does China have a long tradition of respecting and loving the old?"

Another netizen named "1978ken" noted that nobody on the bus said anything to support the old man, which "makes me feel so sad".

Following the criticism and anger from the public, the female driver of the bus was suspended from her post on Wednesday, according to an official from Shanghai Shang Nan Public Transportation Co which operates the No 82 bus service.

The debate has focused on two points: Whether the rag picker has a right to ride the bus and the whether the passenger had the right to dispose of his belongings.

Hu Shoujun, a sociology professor from Fudan University, said as long as he was abiding by the transport regulations then the rag picker had the right to use the bus.

According to the public transport regulations in Shanghai, a bus passenger's luggage should not exceed 50 kilograms in weight or 0.2 cubic meters in size, and should not contain any flammable, explosive, corrosive, poisonous or radioactive materials. The bus company is investigating the man's bags.

The Shanghai-based newspaper Oriental Morning Post cited a staff member of the company that runs the No 82 buses in Shanghai as saying that there is no specific rule stipulating that garbage cannot be taken aboard a bus, "as long as the surface is clean".

Wang Ying, a recently retired woman, said even if the man's bags were oversized or a bit smelly, neither the driver nor the passenger had any justification for being that rude or any law-enforcement power to force him off the bus .

Seven percent of city dwellers living in poverty are largely ignored by society, according to a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Currently more than 10 million people make a living by searching through trash heaps, Xinhua reported.

China Daily

(China Daily 08/12/2011 page5)