Teen Russian Model's Death In China Sparks 'Slave Contracts' Debate

Russian media have accused the Chinese agency of recruiting Vlada Dzyuba on a "slave labor" contract without medical insurance.

Vlada Dzyuba

Minutes before Vlada Dzyuba was set to make an appearance on a Shanghai catwalk, she collapsed. 

An ambulance was called and she was rushed to the hospital. She died two days later.

The Siberian Times reports the 24-year-old model was suffering from meningitis but "her condition was not spotted in time and she was made to continue on the catwalk in a show for Asian designers."

Her death has sparked a heated debate over China purportedly hiring young models under what Russian media refers to as "slave labor contracts."

"It appears the girl did not go to hospital because she had not been provided with medical insurance despite being in China on a three month contract which involved her missing school back home in Perm, in the Urals," the Times stated, adding Dzyuba was earning $8 a day.

ESEE Model, the Chinese agency that hired Dzyuba, has denied the accusations that she was overworked.

“I think the accusation against us that Vlada was worked to death is groundless,” said Zheng Yi, the founder of the agency. “There is no so-called slave contract. We are one of the biggest model agencies in China and the contract we signed with her is legal and standard.”

However, Dzyuba's mother Oksana told The Siberian Times her daughter would often call to complain about lack of sleep.

"It must have been the very beginning of the illness," the mother stated. "And then her temperature shot up. I didn't sleep myself and was calling her constantly, begging her to go to hospital."

As shocking as the news of the teen model is, death from overworking, unfortunately, is a recognized phenomenon in East Asia.

China loses around 600,000 people to guolaosi — a local term for the phenomenon — every year, around 1,600 every day.

Dzyuba's death didn't just spark debate over overworking and slave labor, but also on child labor.

Thumbnail Credits: Reuters,Alessandro Garofalo

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