The organizers of a controversial auto show in which girls as young as 5 paraded in bikinis has dismissed criticism from netizens, saying such events are "natural" and common in China.
A girl poses in swimwear at the Chutian Auto Culture Festival in Wuhan.
Photos of young girls posing in swimwear at the Chutian Auto Culture Festival in Wuhan, Hubei province, on Friday, have been widely circulated and discussed online.
Many Web users expressed anger at the hosts and parents, accusing them of exploiting the children for profit.
However, Zhang Ping, general manager of the event's organizers, 7-Wind Model Costume Co, said the goal was purely to help the children "boost their courage" and no organization or individual made money from the show.
"If you type the key words 'children' and 'bikini' into an Internet search engine, you'll find tens of thousands of results for child bikini contests," she said on Sunday. "It's natural for kids to wear bikinis and other things they like."
She said only two 5-year-olds wore bikinis, both with the permission of their parents.
The company has hosted several child-modeling competitions, none of which have drawn such criticism, Zhang said, although she conceded that auto show models have become a sensitive topic.