Chinese agency denies 'slave labor' claims as teen model dies

Updated 2017-10-31 16:01:56 CGTN
Photocopy of hospital's analysis to the model's death.

Photocopy of hospital's analysis to the model's death.

A Chinese model agency has denied claims of mistreatment in the death of a teenage Russian model.

The death of 14-year-old Vlada Dzuba in Shanghai last week triggered complaints about working conditions of models in China. Foreign media outlets claimed the teen was on a "slave labor" contract without medical insurance during a three-month assignment and had worked herself to death.

However, the model's agency in China, ESEE, denied the accusations on Monday.

It said Vlada Dzuba arrived in Yiwu, a city near Shanghai, on October 23, worked the next day but did not feel well during the night. So her agent canceled her shooting assignment on October 25 and sent her back to Shanghai. She was hospitalized later but died last Friday.

Shanghai Ruijin Hospital diagnosed that Dzuba was suffering from sepsis and died from infectious multiple organ dysfunction syndrome and infectious shock. The hospital did not mention "utter exhaustion".

ESEE founder Fang Yanqiu told the China News Service that the model received 16 assignments during the past two months, mostly catwalks, and was able to maintain a regular lifestyle and finish her work within eight hours a day. "She worked about 35 percent of the time. The remaining time is either for audition or rest," Fang said.

Asked about the claim of "child labor", he said it is an industry practice that models make debuts at a young age, although "Dzuba is the youngest of the season."

At the same time, ESEE CEO Zheng Yi rejected media reports that the model, who had no health insurance, was "too scared to seek hospital treatment". He said his company signed contracts with agencies, not with individual models. So it should be the parenting company's obligation to provide health insurance.

But Zheng admitted that the company did not check whether Dzuba had international health insurance as required when signing a contract.

China's booming fashion industry has attracted thousands of international models, the majority from East Europe, to seek for better opportunities and salaries in recent years.

Dzuba's family are expected to arrive in Shanghai later this week.

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