Video puts spotlight on abuse in child modeling industry

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/11 23:48:40

Child modeling criticized for forcing underaged kids to earn money for parents

A teacher trains a boy at a child model school in Zhili County of Huzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province on May 18, 2016. Child model schools in Zhili County, one of the largest children's wear manufacturing centers in China, became popular in recent years. These schools provided many models for the local industry and helped children to develop good postures. Photo: Xinhua

The video of a little girl being kicked by her mother when taking photos as a model for garment factories, has triggered public anger recently and put the children model industry in China on the spotlight with many netizens saying children should not be forced to make money by their parents.

On a video uploaded on social media on Tuesday, a woman kicked a little girl when the latter seemed not willing to cooperate with the photo shoot. 

The video was later reportedly taken in a photography studio in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province. The girl was recognized by a child garment shop as 3-year-old Niu Niu and the woman is her mother. Niu Niu has worked as a child model for six months, according to 

The mother later released a public apology on China's Twitter-like platform Sina Weibo on Wednesday, saying, "I was communicating with Niu Niu with some actions which were harmless. I apologized for the misunderstandings." She stressed that she did not abuse her daughter. 

The mother's apology did not appease public anger triggered by the video and more criticism appeared on social media after more videos showed the mother poking the girl when talking to her and slapped the girl's hand when she did not greet as required during the photo shoot. 

Many online shops for children's garments announced on Sina Weibo on Thursday that they have terminated contracts with Niu Niu's mother. 

A total of 110 children garment shops on China's e-commerce giant platform released a joint announcement on Thursday, calling for regulations on the child model industry, banning rude and violent activities toward children, and refusing to use pictures which were taken when children's interests were hurt.

Problems in industry

Due to the quick development of e-commerce in China, the children's garments market is growing fast, which has also boosted the industry of child modeling for advertisements. 

Training centers for aspiring children models, photography studios and children garment's companies are cooperating to push the development of the child model industry in Zhili, a town in Hangzhou which has more than 13,000 companies producing children's garments. 

Using children as models for advertisements started in 2016 with businesses of many online children's garments' shops booming. Shop owners made their own children or children of relatives as models and later an industry training and taking pictures of child models started, Xu Xiuming, who works in the child modeling industry, was quoted as saying by

Companies doing businesses on child modeling mushroomed in China in recent years and many are located in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou, Xu said, noting that many companies would give performance training to these children, which is more like cultivating their interest.   

A child could earn 300 yuan to 500 yuan to wear clothes and have their photos taken. A "mature" model can change to more than 100 clothes and some foreign child models could earn 4,000 yuan for an hour. The average work hours for the children are eight per day, reported.  

The high income of the industry has attracted many parents. A photographer who claimed to work in Zhili said that he met with many child models who took a leave from kindergarten or even stopped studying or postponed their enrollment in primary school. 

According to a report from Huzhou Daily in December 2018, Zhu Huili, from a training center in Zhili, said many parents start out with enhancing their children's courage and confidence when sending their children to the training centers. But there are some who hope their children could make money quickly after completing the training.

Yang Jianping, the head of the local chamber of children's garments manufacturers, said that child models have become an indispensable part of the children's garments market, but the market should lead the cultivation of child stars while protecting their interests.

Whether parents violated laws by forcing children to work as models is another question discussed by netizens.

According to China's Law on the Protection of Minors, no organization or individual may hire any minor under the age of 16, except as otherwise prescribed by the state.  

"The shiny smiles of these child models on e-commerce platforms may hide control from parents for the purpose of making money… and this control does not lead to a better future for the children but for money," read a commentary on


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