The Panda Boys, China’s youngest boy band ever, has been rebranded as a children’s art troupe after their agency was accused of child exploitation.
Too young to be heartthrobs: The recently formed group, composed of seven elementary school children aged between 7 and 11, drew immediate backlash after making its first public performance last week in Chengdu city, reported South China Morning Post.
- Social media users on Weibo have been bashing Asia Starry Sky Group, the group’s talent agency, for allegedly trying to cash in on children, according to the Global Times.
- One user wrote on Weibo: “Does this suggest that the next boy group that debuts has to include children in a nursery?”
- Chinese media outlets have urged the government to impose tougher regulations on the entertainment industry to prevent the creation of similar groups.
- An article in China Comment criticized the growing trend of “minor idols” introduced to the commercial market.
- “They left their normal environment for living and studying and entered the entertainment industry at an overly young age, which would be bad for their physical and psychological development,” it read.
Under a new name: The growing criticism on the members’ ages reportedly prompted Asia Starry Sky Group to rebrand and change the group’s name from “Tianfu Boy Band” to the “Panda Children’s Art Troupe.” The group, however, will be retaining its English name “Panda Boys.”
- “We won’t cultivate the fandom culture,” the agency said in a statement on Tuesday. “Neither will any capital operation be involved. We are just a group of children who love singing and dancing, doing something meaningful together.”
- In a follow-up statement on Saturday, the company claimed the members were required to prioritize school over band practice as the boys reportedly dream of becoming idols who: “have ideals, love to study, and are culturally, physically and mentally healthy.”
- The agency further explained that the group performs songs with positive, encouraging lyrics and elements of traditional Sichuan opera.
In China, it is against the law to employ anyone under the age of 16, but minors are allowed to participate in artistic and athletic endeavors with approval from relevant authorities and permission from parents.
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