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Cover-up at China auto show as scantily clad models 'banned'

AFP logoAFP 4/20/2015

Scantily clad female models draped over car bonnets were conspicuous by their absence as China's premier auto show opened on Monday, after such displays were reportedly banned.

Past auto shows in Shanghai and elsewhere in China featured "car models" -- "che mo" in Chinese -- who shot to fame for the skimpiness of their outfits, with netizens dubbing the phenomenon "selling flesh".

According to a directive leaked to Chinese media, organisers of this year's event aimed to bring attention back to the curves of the vehicles, and create an "orderly, clean, safe" atmosphere.

The move also followed a deadly New Year's Eve stampede in Shanghai, which prompted the government to crack down on events which could cause dangerous overcrowding.

Like veteran bird-watchers, show visitors swapped accounts of real and possibly imagined models. "We saw some people looking model-ish around there," an industry official said.

Japan's Toyota substituted a row of young men in black polo shirts. "We're just standing here. We're not models," one said when asked about his role.

Scantily clad female models pose on a customized BMW at the Auto Shanghai, in 2009 © Provided by AFP Scantily clad female models pose on a customized BMW at the Auto Shanghai, in 2009

Suzuki Motor Corp. did have women models alongside its cars, but fully covered in all-white dresses with fashionable scarves around their necks.

According to the leaked directive, organisers had urged exhibitors to "Put an end to the phenomenon of all types of vulgarity, harm to civilised society and ill-intentioned sensationalism," ordering them to provide visitors with "artistic enjoyment" instead.

Ford lacked models, but the US automaker substituted two dancers interacting with computer images on a giant screen to launch its new Taurus into the China market.

They even went through a rapid costume change on stage, but with their modesty preserved -- by a curtain for the man and a red flag for the woman.

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