A Chinese mother was caught strongly kicking her 3-year-old daughter during a modeling shoot, in a viral video that has sparked outrage online and accusations of child abuse.
The short clip shows the young daughter, wearing a yellow top and white skirt, being brutally kicked in the backside by her mother, while a man watches on.
The mother, who remains anonymous, later publicly apologized for her actions, but denied allegations of child abuse.
The woman claimed that she had acted out of stress.
The incident occurred in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province on evening of April 8, after the girl, named Niu Niu, had been in a photo shoot all day, according to Beijing News.
The mother told the outlet that Niu Niu, who is not old enough to attend kindergarten, had been been modeling for six months and was highly sought after by online retailers who need cute children to model their clothes.
The video, uploaded on April 8, went viral on Chinese social media, and has been viewed more than 10 million times.
Users on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, harshly condemned the mother’s actions.
Weibo user “A Very Handsome Person” posted: “The child is so well behaved, she put down the basket so gently, and didn’t even complain after you kicked her. You should apologize to your daughter, alright? And examine your own conscience!”
Another user “sandiesx” wrote: “My heart truly aches for your daughter. This time of their lives is supposed to be carefree, yet you are using it to make money. She isn’t a tool.”
Many shops have also taken down pictures of Niu Niu in response to the controversy.
Niu Niu’s mother on April 10 issued an apology on her Weibo account.
She said she did not intend to harm her daughter and was “deeply sorry” for the incident, but denied allegations of child abuse.
“Here, I reemphasize, my daughter is my most beloved, and absolutely has received the best care and love!” she wrote.
In a follow-up interview with Beijing News, the mother explained the circumstances leading up to events in the video.
She claimed that Niu Niu had often run towards the open road and the day was getting dark, and so she had acted out of stress.
“Everyone online is saying that I’ve bruised my girl with that kick, but can you see a bruise anywhere on her body?” the mother told the outlet.
“What parent can say they’ve never hit their child? Usually, I very rarely hit my child.”
She added: “We were doing everything, trying to encourage her and tease her, all to try to make her smile more beautifully.
“Who would hit their child without reason?”
The mother also refuted allegations that the family relies on the money from Niu Niu’s modeling work to support the family, saying that her husband also has a job.
Beijing News reported that certain child models can earn anywhere between 15,000 yuan to 150,000 yuan (around $2,200 to $22,000) a year.
According to Sixth Tone, an English language China-focused news outlet affiliated with state-run media The Paper, China’s child modeling industry started growing in 2014. Since then, hundreds of thousands of parents have signed their kids up for modeling competitions, and to work as models for the clothing industry, the report said.
The report featured one child who regularly worked eight-hour days at only five years of age, and on some days for even longer.