A recent poll conducted by state media suggests that sexual harrassment is rampant on China’s metro systems.

In a survey of 2,023 people published last week, 53.5 per cent of female respondents said they had personally experienced sexual harassment on the metro, or knew another woman who had. Only around 30 per cent said they had not experienced it, whilst 16.7 per cent of women said that it was “hard to say.”

A crew member watches the train at Gaobeidian Station. Photo: Wikicommons/維基小霸王.

The poll was conducted by a survey centre run by state media organisation China Youth Daily. 55.2 per cent of the respondents were female, while 44.8 per cent were male.

  • 71.5 per cent of all respondents said they thought that penalties for harassers should be increased, and that a passenger black list should be established;
  • 62 per cent supported stepping up safety checks and monitoring;
  • 55 per cent supported increasing anti-harassment advertising;
  • Around 45 per cent supported establishing an efficient reporting system;
  • 28 per cent supported designated female-only subway cars;
  • 63.3 per cent of respondents said that victims of harassment should report the incident to subway staff;
  • And about the same number said they thought that victims of harassment should loudly scold the perpetrator to draw attention to them.
A subway station in Shanghai. Photo: Wikicommons.

In terms of other ways for victims to deal with harassment:

  • 54.4 per cent were in favour of taking photos for evidence and calling the police;
  • 22.9 in favour of walking away immediately;
  • 6 per cent in favour of remaining silent for safety reasons;
  • Almost 30 per cent thought that demonstrating too much resistance would endanger the victim.

The organisation reported that more women than men would choose to walk away or remain silent, while more men than women said they would take a more proactive approach.

Information about the location of respondents was not made available, and neither was data on sexual harassment experienced by male respondents. But another study of 40 media reports from the first half of 2017 conducted by the People’s Daily found that the victims in all 40 cases were women, though it noted that there have been cases of young boys and men being harassed in the past. Only a quarter of the women involved reported their case to the police, it said.

China’s public security law states that a person who molests another person or intentionally exposes their body in public shall be detained for at least five but no more than ten days, while its criminal law states that those who act indecently or threaten woman with violence or coercion shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of up to five years.

HKFP has contacted China Youth Daily for the full report.


Catherine Lai

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.