QINGDAO, CHINA — A recent video of a young man who slapped another male passenger on a train after witnessing a dispute over seats has gone viral, with viewers and online users dubbing him the “Subway Judge”.
The incident reportedly happened in Qingdao in eastern China. In the viral video, a male passenger is seen in a verbal altercation with a female passenger seated in front of him.
Although the exact circumstances that led to the incident are unclear, the passengers involved in the dispute appear to have been arguing over seating space.
According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), two women who were seated next to each other had been arguing over seating space before a male passenger stepped in to side with one of the women.
The first woman can be heard telling the other that there was not enough space for others to sit down.
The second woman replies: “If I’m not taking up your space, then don’t make so much noise.”
The older male passenger then steps in, pointing out that the second woman had not taken up extra space beyond the dividers of the seats.
During the ensuing verbal altercation between the older male passenger and the first woman, a younger man is seen walking over from a separate carriage to observe the situation.
The first woman says to the older man: “What does this have to do with you?”
After a few exchanges, the older male passenger then says: “If there’s nobody on the train, you can’t control me even if I were to take up 10 seats.”
Upon hearing the older male passenger’s comments, the younger man swiftly delivers a backhanded slap to the older male passenger before quickly walking away while making some parting remarks.
The older man is then seen following the younger passenger to another carriage but it is unclear what happens next.
The video was taken by another train passenger on Sept 4 and uploaded to Chinese social media, where it was later reposted numerous times across different platforms, such as on micro-blogging site Weibo.
By Sept 6, the hashtag “#subwayjudge” had more than 470 million views on Weibo, reported SCMP.
As of Tuesday (Sept 12) afternoon, a follow-up report on the incident, posted on Sept 5 by Nine Pai News on Weibo had attracted more than 316,732 likes, 5,809 shares, and 9,128 comments.
The younger man’s seemingly calculated, yet swift execution of his version of vigilante justice has amused netizens, earning him the moniker “Subway Judge” while spawning parodies and memes of the incident.
Memes began circulating on social media of the younger man, altering his appearance by placing a traditional Chinese judge’s hat on him and an added crescent moon on his forehead to look like Bao Zheng, also known as Justice Bao, a prominent Chinese historical figure and symbol of justice.
Another meme placed the words “confused”, “confirm” and “verdict” in Chinese over successive screenshots of the younger man’s face, showing his unique facial expressions and quick thought process in assessing the situation before executing his verdict.
The striking T-shirt worn by the younger man also caught the eye of netizens, with some even purchasing the same top because of the incident, supposedly causing the particular design to be sold out on popular Chinese online shopping platform Taobao, according to a tweet by X (formerly Twitter) user manyapan.
Several social media content creators also took advantage of the virality of the incident, with some donning similar outfits while parodying the incident in varying stunts.
The younger man’s actions have garnered some mixed reactions from netizens, with many speculating on his behaviour and mental health.
Referring to questions about the man’s mental health, one Weibo user wrote: “Does he have a mental illness? Why ask such an obvious question when the answer is so clear?”
Another defended the younger man, writing: “Regardless of whether he is mentally ill, he has done the thing that many people dare not do.”
However, others were more critical of the incident, with some condemning the use of violence in the incident.
One Weibo user aired her mixed feelings, writing: “After thinking about it for a while, I feel conflicted by the situation. While his actions reflected what most people would like to do, they were ultimately incorrect.”
Another X user questioned the morals of the involved parties, writing: “It might just be me but isn’t everybody involved showing despicable behaviour?
“The woman for taking up more than one seat. The man for going into such a shouting match. The young guy for violence (although he probably has some illness). The netizens for cheering this on.”