Safe rid­ing

Bei­jing and Shang­hai de­ploy more se­cu­rity guards on bus routes

China Daily (USA) - - NEWS - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai and CUI JIA in Bei­jing Con­tact the writ­ers at zhouwent­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn Liang Shuang con­trib­uted to this story.

Con­cern over deadly ar­son at­tacks is prompt­ing wider use of se­cu­rity guards on buses, a prac­tice ex­pected to be­come more com­mon na­tion­ally, bus com­pany of­fi­cials say.

Since Au­gust, some 260 se­cu­rity guards have been as­signed to buses on Shang­hai’s main roads and com­mer­cial or tourist districts such as Xu­ji­ahui and Peo­ple’s Square.

More bus routes will em­ploy the guards in re­sponse to a no­tice from the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity and Min­istry of Trans­port say­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and prov­inces need to boost se­cu­rity on buses, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior man­ager, who de­clined to be named, from Shang­hai Bashi Pub­lic Trans­porta­tion, the city’s bus op­er­a­tor.

In Bei­jing, the first group of key routes were as­signed guards in De­cem­ber 2013.

The ef­fort has grown since an anti-ter­ror­ism law was passed at the end of 2015. By the end of 2016, the city plans to have guards on ev­ery bus within the Third Ring Road, ac­cord­ing to Zhang Fushun, a spokesman with Bei­jing PublicTrans­porta­tion Group, Bei­jing’s bus op­er­a­tor.

The guards, who wear black uni­forms and have por­ta­ble fire ex­tin­guish­ers on their belts, keep an eye on pack­ages and lug­gage that pas­sen­gers carry aboard.

“We mainly look for liq­uids,” said Chen Yang, a guard on Bei­jing’s Route 103 bus. “We keep an eye on those car­ry­ing al­co­hol — this has hap­pened to me a few times al­ready — and we’ll im­me­di­ately call po­lice if we spot gaso­line,” Chen said. Other du­ties in­clude help­ing keep aisles clear in case of emer­gency evac­u­a­tion, and pre­vent­ing pas­sen­gers from spread­ing fliers.

Most guards and pas­sen­gers in­ter­viewed said the pol­icy had been wel­comed and that it re­duces the bur­den on bus driv­ers, keep­ing their con­cen­tra­tion on the road.

But the prac­tice has en­coun­tered a few­bumps.

“The bus is over­crowded, es­pe­cially dur­ing peak hours and at ma­jor stops,” Chen said. “This bus trav­els past the For­bid­den City, and I my­self can barely move while go­ing past those stops, let alone keep an eye out to­ward the back of the bus.”

Also, be­cause the guards have no au­thor­ity to go through bag­gage, their pow­ers are lim­ited when they face un­co­op­er­a­tive pas­sen­gers. “We can do noth­ing but keep an ex­tra eye out for them,” Chen said.

Some said it seems too much like a for­mal­ity. “I feel like this method does lit­tle in terms of ac­tual ef­fect, plus I’ve seen many guards play­ing with their smart­phones while on duty,” said Zhong Qing, a pas­sen­ger on Route 596 in Bei­jing.

Com­pul­sory se­cu­rity checks have been used for some time on the sub­ways in cities like Bei­jing and Shang­hai. Bus se­cu­rity guards in most cities, how­ever, have only been used since 2015, af­ter a few bus ar­sons and a no­tice from the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity and the Min­istry of Trans­port rec­om­mend­ing op­er­a­tors add se­cu­rity guards.

Bus ar­sons killed 47 in East China’s Xi­a­men in June 2013, two in Guangzhou in July 2014, and 18 in North­west China’s Yinchuan in Jan­uary 2016. In all these cases, the ar­son­ists set fires to “get re­venge on so­ci­ety”, ac­cord­ing to po­lice re­ports.

On Sept 15, a woman in Shen­zhen killed her­self by set­ting ablaze a bus she was rid­ing in us­ing gaso­line hid­den in her lug­gage. The driver and all other pas­sen­gers es­caped.

FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY

Se­cu­rity guard Hou Yongfei stays alert on duty on a bus in Bei­jing on Mon­day. The na­tional pub­lic se­cu­rity and trans­port au­thor­i­ties have is­sued a no­tice say­ing cities and prov­inces need to add se­cu­rity guards.

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