More than 60 Foreign Models Nabbed in China Visa Sting: Reports

BEIJING – It could be the most beautiful crackdown of all time.

Police in Beijing and the southern city of Guangzhou have rounded up more than 60 foreign fashion models over the past week, according to The Business Model and Fashion Times blogs. Officials reportedly pressured some of those detained to reveal the addresses of other models.

The models in Beijing had showed up to a casting call organized by the M3 Modeling Agency where they found police waiting for them, according to the reports. Any individual found to be on tourist or other visa forbidding them from working in China were detained.

Police in Beijing declined to confirm the reports, while police in Guangzhou did not answer the telephone. Calls to the Beijing modeling agency where the sting was centered went unanswered.

Word has spread within the foreign modeling community to not answer the door at home, keep lights off at night and hide portfolios.

It isn’t known whether the models, who could face stiff fines and deportation, were male or female, or what their immigration status was.

Models parade on the catwalk during Beijing's Fashion Week in 2012.
Models parade on the catwalk during Beijing's Fashion Week in 2012. MARK RALSTON / AFP - Getty Images file

China offers steady work for many Western models.

“The models don’t know the laws in the countries they go to, they just do what their agencies tell them,” said one former model who worked illegally in Beijing for two years.

“When I came to China, everything was just organized by my mother agency back home and they told me the basics… I just assumed the Chinese agency got me the right visa,” said the model, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity.

Many models discover they are on the wrong visas after arriving, but steady pay, difficulties in securing proper documentation and local modeling agencies’ reluctance to pay taxes can make getting proper paperwork hard.

- Chaojie Zhou contributed to this report