WEAR revealing clothes and you will be groped. This warning by a Shanghai MRT operator has caused a furore in the city.
On its microblogging site, the Shanghai No2 Subway Co posted a picture of a woman in a see-through dress and warned: "If you dress like this on the subway, you will undoubtedly be harassed. The subway is full of perverts - women, have some self-respect!"
The warning, posted earlier this month, has been forwarded more than 15,000 times and drew nearly 7,000 responses, many expressing outrage and criticising the subway operator for "sexist" remarks, AFP reported.
"According to this logic, all men can harass women in swimming pools," wrote one netizen.
"What I wear is my basic right. It does not deny the rights of others," wrote a microblogger calling herself SOY-BEAN-E.
Miss Li Sipan, a postgraduate student at the University of Macau, said in an article in Shanghai's Dongfang Daily that the message behind the post was that women who were sexually harassed on the subway probably asked for it.
Female Internet users had reacted so negatively to the post because all women felt repressed by society about what was proper to wear in public spaces, she wrote.
A company spokesman denied that the post was a justification of sexual harassment and said it was meant to be a "kind reminder" to women, the Global Times reported.
"As the city's subway operator, we have the responsibility to warn women of the potential danger of sexual harassment on the subway," the paper quoted the spokesman as saying.
Shanghai University sociology professor Gu Jun said the subway dress code could be seen as the product of a war between the sexes, Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post reported.
"Men see women's sexy way of dress as an expansion of women's rights in public space, and they feel threatened," the professor said.
Early this week, two female passengers donned black robes and masks on the Shanghai metro's Line 2 to protest against the post.
The passengers held up placards saying, "I can show off, you can't harass me" and "We want to be cool but we don't want perverts".
Others voiced support for the warning and urged women to dress more conservatively.
About 70 per cent of the nearly 17,000 respondents to the Chinese microblogging site Sina weibo online poll said that women should dress more conservatively when on the subway and that the dress code had nothing to do with discrimination.
"If you don't respect yourself, how can you ask others to respect you?" microblogger bingqing_8962 asked.
Many people said it is rare to see women dressing so scantily in public, and women should not be blamed in this situation, China Daily reported.
"Can it be reasonable that I'm doomed to be robbed if I drive a BMW car? That's the same," said Ms Zhu Xueqin, a counsellor who also works on gender studies.
The words seem to be a reminder for women, she said, but they are actually gender discrimination.
"With this attitude, how could the metro operator cope with a sexual harassment case in which a woman wore a miniskirt?" she asked.
Some women said wearing normal clothes won't deter molesters.
Said Miss Tian Wei, a 26-year-old from Shanghai: "I was once sexually harassed on a bus in winter when I was in high school and I was wearing a school uniform.
"It has nothing to do with what a woman wears, which I think most people will agree with."
Said Xiong Jing from the Beijing-based Media Monitor for Women Network: "The tone of the company is far from being courteous. It's improper for the company to criticise its women passengers, who are actually victims, on its official microblog. We hope it can offer an explanation."
The company has refused to apologise.
This article was first published in The New Paper.