School under fire for bar-girl scheme

By Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-23 06:52

A dancing school in Guilin, in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, broke the law when it arranged for its students to work as bar girls, legal experts said.

"Organizing paid hostess services is against the law in China. Introducing underage students to the field is even worse because it harms them both physically and psychologically," said Qiu Baochang, dean of the Beijing-based Huijia Law Firm.

He added that such activities also broke the Law on the Protection of Minors.

Xinhua News Agency first reported that Guilin Intermediate Vocational Dance School had sent 22 teenagers to work in bars and nightclubs in Hangzhou, the capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, early last month.

The school has faced severe criticism since the reports became public.

"All of the 22 students who were sent to Hangzhou returned yesterday," an official at Guilin's education department, surnamed Lu, said.

"The media have not exaggerated their coverage. This is a case of negligence," Lu said. "We are going to deal with it according to the relevant rules and regulations."

Yuan Bentao, a professor at Tsinghua University's Education Research Institute, criticised the school.

"It is so obviously wrong for the school to give its students such so-called internship opportunities," Yuan said. "Vocational schools focus more on real-life professional skills. Sending students to work as paid hostesses has nothing to do with such principles."

"It is even more important that private schools like this maintain a respectable image so that they can survive in China's competitive education marketplace," Yuan said.

While Qiu took a hasher tone.

"The school has shown its moral degeneracy by introducing its students to work as bar girls," Qiu said. "In the interest of protecting minors, I suggest that the education and public security departments launch an investigation into the case."

Qiu also noted the burden of reputation that private schools face.

"These schools have to improve their teaching if they hope to have good reputations, otherwise they will easily fall into a vicious circle."

Meanwhile, China's netizens have also been energized by the report.

"Isn't the school a pimp!"

"Officials with the school should be put into jail!"

These indignant messages appeared in a chat room at the major Internet portal

Xinhua News reported that the school had recruited many of the students from poverty-stricken areas in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. After giving them a semester's training, the school sent the students to Hangzhou for "dancing performances." These performances were treated as internships.

The students' parents were told that their children would perform at well-regulated places and would each be paid 750 yuan (US$94) a month, Xinhua reported.

However, a teacher who escorted the students onto the bus told them not to tell their families about what they were doing. The teacher encouraged them to bring their concerns to other teachers.

"A senior schoolmate picked us up in Hangzhou and took away our student and identity cards," one 15-year-old student was quoted by Xinhua as saying. "She told us to dress in a mature way and to tell people that we were already 19 years old."

A 16-year-old who had never drunk alcohol before said she was forced to drink eight glasses of wine on her fourth day at work. She said her classmates frequently returned to the dorm drunk and cried at night that they wanted to go home.

Xinhua said each student earned 100 yuan (US$12.5) a night, with 50 yuan (US$7.5) going to an agent, 25 yuan (US$3.75) to the dance school and 25 yuan to themselves.

School Chairman Guo Guisheng argued that it was not "inappropriate" for the girls to exchange toasts as courtesy and that he was "doing a good deed" as most of the students were from poor families.

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