China's railway stations have been ordered to ensure that pay-to-use massage chairs in waiting areas account for no more than 20 percent of the total seating, after photos of a packed waiting area filled with massage chairs caused a stir online.
According to China State Railway Group, the national railway operator, the number of pay-to-use massage chairs should not exceed 20 percent of the total seats and they should be placed in waiting areas in locations that do not disturb or block the way of passengers.
Pictures posted online recently showed a railway station in Taian, Shandong province, where 90 percent of the 500 seats were massage chairs, prompting the ire of netizens.
Some comments online pointed out that if the station removed the bulky massage chairs it would be able to fit more standard seating and be less crowded.
Meanwhile, a video of a woman's hair trapped in a massage chair at a train station in Chongqing was posted online about a week ago, raising concerns about their safety.
Massage chairs are a popular shared item in public spaces in China, often found in places such as malls and transport hubs. Customers can scan a code to pay for the service if they want a massage or just sit on the chairs for free — although sometimes they can receive alerts from workers or automated voices on the chairs encouraging them to pay.
China State Railway Group said it has sent a notice to the railway station in Taian and advised all stations to ensure their massage chairs are clean and in good working order.
For stations with large passenger flows and limited space in waiting areas, the proportion and number of massage chairs should be reduced, the notice from the group said.
By the end of August, a thorough review and rectification will be carried out, focusing on the quantity, layout, condition and cleanliness of massage seats in railway stations, according to the notice.