Swimwear and short skirts-clad young women posing with cars at automobile shows is now taken for granted. But a car show in central China’s Hubei province where children, as young as five-year-old girls, posed with cars has triggered an online outcry.
After photographs of young girls being paraded at the Chutian Auto Culture Festival in the city of Wuhan in Hubei were circulated on China’s social networking sites, protests and criticism erupted over the issue.
The girls were show wearing bikinis and modeling for the cars in various poses, state-run China Daily newspaper reported.
Shang Xiaoyuan, a professor at Beijing Normal University and child welfare expert, said she believed having a child expose his or her body in public was offensive.
“Auto shows try too hard to attract customers with sexy, female models, which sends a negative message that the female form is a marketing tool,” she said. “When children appear at auto shows posing in bikinis, it implants such an idea in their minds and is harmful for their development.”
Tong Xiaojun, a specialist in child rights at China Youth University for Political Sciences, agreed, and added that the auto shows set a bad example for children about what is proper behavior in public.
“It ruins children's innocence, and it has blurred the boundary for what children should be taught to do and what they should not at a certain age,” she said.
But the show’s organisers remained unruffled.
The newspaper quoted Zhang Ping, general manager of the event's organisers, 7-Wind Model Costume Co, as saying the goal was purely to help the children “boost their courage” and no organisation or individual made money from the show.
“If you type the key words 'children' and 'bikini' into an Internet search engine, you'll find tens of thousands of results for child bikini contests," she said on Sunday. "It's natural for kids to wear bikinis and other things they like,” was Zhang’s explanation.
Not everyone was happy that photos of the girls were circulated online. “Some netizens criticized us parents and claimed children's rights, but it was they who hurt the children by uploading the girls' photos without taking measures to conceal their identities, such as covering their faces," parent Chen Ling, whose daughter posed as a model in the show but not in swimwear, said.