hinese netizens raised a major stink on Wednesday about a foreign passenger going unpunished for allegedly pulling the emergency brake on a high-speed train.
The incident occurred on a bullet train headed from Shanghai to Guangzhou that was stopped at a station in the Hunan capital of Changsha on Monday evening.
Cell phone video footage from the train shows one Chinese passenger going off on a train attendant for apparently not dealing with the foreigner harshly enough. “You don’t respect Chinese people, you know that?” he shouts.
That video quickly went viral on Chinese social media. A hashtag on the incident quickly became a top trending topic on Weibo with a whopping 200 million views and thousands of comments lamenting “foreigner privilege” in China.
Complaining of how expats are frequently not punished for things that locals would be, netizens dug up examples of people being fined as much as 1,000 yuan ($141) for pulling an emergency brake.
“Every time that I see all the kids of special treatment that foreigners get, I have the feeling that I’ve traveled through time,” reads one popular comment.
“How much longer will we kneel?” reads another.
Chinese netizens made a similar fuss this summer over a string of incidents involving a foreign woman eating on the Nanjing metro, an Egyptian student shoving a traffic cop, and a Chinese university allocating international students with multiple female buddies.
While this sort of anger isn’t known for its rationality, it appears that netizens are completely off base in this latest incident with railway officials explaining that the passenger never touched the emergency brake but only accidentally pressed down on the “door open” button while the door was already open, causing an alarm to sound.
Video posted by the railway group shows the passenger lean against the button while apparently taking photos or video of the Changsha train station during the stop. Technicians arrived to find the protection panel over the emergency brake still intact.
The train left the station without any delay. Netizens were also evidently blaming completely the wrong guy.
Perhaps this will serve as a lesson for reactionary netizens to not jump to conclusions, wait for more evidence, and tone down their rhetoric. But, probably not.