China: Around The Nation

Chinese promotional videos featuring African kids cause a stir on social media

Makers of quirky advertising shorts accused of exploiting underprivileged youngsters

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 6:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 7:14pm

A Chinese man living in Zambia has upset China’s internet community by selling videos online of African children holding up advertising placards and reading out personalised greetings in Puthongua.

The man, who is one of many believed to be involved in the business, goes by the username Wei Ge on the popular online shopping platform Taobao, The Beijing News reported on Friday.

He sells the messages for 100 yuan (US$15) apiece – of which 10 yuan goes to the child star – and shoots up to 100 videos per day, depending on how many orders he receives, the report said.

Wei Ge has 1.2 million followers on the Chinese social video sharing site Kwaishou, where he uploads short videos of his daily life in Zambia.

The promotional videos produced by Wei Ge and others, do appear to have been filmed in Africa, and typically show local children holding adverts or placards with personalised messages written in Chinese. Some of the children even sing songs or shout out greetings in Putonghua.

Examples of the videos have been flooding Chinese social media, the report said, and most people have not been impressed.

“Such shady businessmen must be stopped,” a person wrote on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. “How does this show the superiority of our socialism?”

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According to a media survey, most of the people behind the idea are Chinese internet entrepreneurs who sell the videos via e-commerce sites to people wishing to advertise their businesses.

Wei Ge lives in a rich neighbourhood in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, but uses only children living in the city’s slums in his videos, the newspaper report said.

“I don’t feel ashamed about making money in this way,” he was quoted as saying. “I am not stealing anything from people, but promoting Chinese culture to others.”

He said the children can earn up to 35 yuan a day, and that their parents were willing to let them be filmed.

Taobao is owned by Alibaba Group, which also owns the South China Morning Post.