Why Over 60 Foreign Models Are Under Arrest in Beijing Right Now

Last Thursday, police in Beijing, China arrested more than 60 foreign models for working illegally under fake tourist visas. Most of the models are western, from places like the United States and various European nations, with Russia and the Ukraine highly represented.

According to Fashionista, the Beijing police force set up a fake casting call at a Chinese agency "in order to find models who were working illegally. Those who showed up were taken into custody and had their passports and cell phones confiscated." The Business Model has gleaned from various sources that four models are in jail, while the remaining 60 are being held in custody. Most will likely be deported.

In Guangzhou, police have apparently apprehended a couple models who have disclosed model apartment addresses, hoping to alleviate their treatment by co-operating. Models are advising each other to not open the door to anyone who may knock and hide portfolios and comp cards in bags while out on the street.

Officials are even stopping pedestrians who look like models and demanding to see their papers. Why are so many models working illegally? A source at Model Alliance told Fashionista that an entertainment visa, which is required to work legally as a model in China, is much harder to obtain than a tourist visa, sometimes taking up to two months of the model's (and the agency's) time.

Advocates for models' rights already warn their colleagues to steer clear of China, where the working conditions for models are often poor and accompanied by low pay and sexual harassment, in large part because so many models are there illegally. But if working illegally in China is such a poorly kept secret, then why is the crackdown happening now? Natalia Zurowski, a models' rights advocate, wrote:

I feel, personally, that the reason this is happening now — and at such a high intensity — instead of earlier, is due to the large influx of models infiltrating the Chinese market. The supply of models globally far outreaches the demand for them, so many models go to China for work because there are many different cities (markets) they can work in. What was once a rather unpopular and obscure market in Asia has become one of the best places for models who aren’t classified as “top” or “super” to make money.
Also, many “agencies” have opened up in China because they see the industry as profitable, so this causes even more models to come to the country who seek work, some of whom aren’t even professional models. In sum, there are just too many models now and it’s becoming increasingly obvious, especially to the Chinese government.

There is no word on how long the models will be held in custody, but Fashionista reports that the earliest release date will likely be May 23rd.