A video posted online showed Zhou occupying a window seat train on a train traveling from Yongzhou, Hunan province, to Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Wednesday, when she was supposed to sit by the aisle.
The window seat passenger later boarded the train and found her seat already taken. She asked Zhou to move but Zhou refused, prompting a complaint to train attendants, a member of the train’s staff said in the video.
A train attendant arrived to mediate but Zhou kept making excuses and stayed put, the staff member said.
Zhou occupied the window seat until she left the train at Guangzhou station. The woman whose seat she took was given another window seat in the neighboring carriage.
Videos of Zhou yelling at the officer quickly went viral on microblogging platform Weibo, where the hashtag “high-speed rail woman hogs seat” has been viewed over 400 million times in the past day.
On Thursday, police in Hunan — a province the train passes through — fined Zhou 400 yuan , and the Guangzhou rail authority issued a statement saying that Zhou had been banned from taking trains in China for 180 days.
Zhou was the second person in a month to be punished for such behavior. On Aug 21, a video posted online showed a man named Sun He sitting in the wrong seat on a train from Jinan, Shandong province, to Beijing and refusing to move. When train staff repeatedly asked him to move, he claimed he could not stand and needed a wheelchair.
Along with other 246 people, Sun He was placed on the social credits blacklist in August, which was issued on Monday by China's State Information Center of Public Credits. It means all trains across the country should forbid those on the list from buying tickets for 180 days starting Sept. 12.
Chinese netizens seem to have little patience for train passengers who take seats that don’t belong to them and then stubbornly refuse to admit they’re wrong.
Apart from a few vengeful vigilantes, however, most netizens are reacting to these cases with mild and playful sarcasm.
A Beijing News report suggests the punishment should come in timeously to prevent such incidents happening again. "The railway police should take some effective actions immediately to deal with the passengers who disrupt order severely and disregard others," the report says.