The message, which quickly went viral, was posted on the official Weibo account of the Shanghai Metro and included a photo of a woman wearing a sheer dress on the platform with the following comment:
Dressing like that, it would be unusual for a lady not be harassed. There can be perverts on the subway, and it's hard to get rid of them. Please have self-respect, ladies. (Translation from South China Morning Post)
More than 6,000 people commented on the post and another 15,000 re-blogged it. Most criticized the transportation agency for suggesting women were to blame if harassed by dressing scantily.
According to this logic, all men can harass women in swimming pools? one micro-blog user was quoted as saying in China Daily.
The official account of Women's Voice, a group advocating gender equality in China, said: Sexual harassment is a crime! The subway line should try harder to be responsible for passenger safety instead of finding excuses for these criminals and blaming the crime on the victims!
On Sunday, the controversy generated even more talk after two women started a protest against the Weibo message by walking through the metro with their faces covered in black. They held signs that read: I can be coquettish, but you cannot harass me, and yes to cool dress, no to dirty man.
But their protest did not go over well with the public. Though initial respondents expressed outrage over the Metro's post, a Weibo poll on Monday revealed that 70 percent of the nearly 17,000 surveyed believed women should dress more conservatively when on the subway and that dress codes have little to do with gender equality.
Dressing appropriately in public is a matter of public courtesy, said one micro-blog user. Asking women to be self-respecting in the way they dress does not equate to justifying sexual harassment.
Meanwhile, the Shanghai Metro has not removed the original post, nor has it apologized for the controversial comment.
A spokesman for the transit company told the Global Times newspaper: As the city's subway operator, we have the responsibility to warn women of the potential danger of sexual harassment on the subway.
He added that complaints of sexual harassment on the Shanghai Metro are on the rise.