Just over a month after its formation, a Chinese girl band chosen by millions of fans is in crisis after three members announced that they had quit due to stress and overwork.
Meng Meiqi, Wu Xuanyi and Zhang Zining announced their decision to quit Rocket Girl 101 in a statement posted on Weibo through their agents Yuehua Entertainment on Thursday afternoon.
“We had to take into account problems that had arisen, including burdening them with unreasonable work arrangements that brought stress and damaged their health,” the notice read.
The three had been selected to join the 11-member group following a fans’ vote in the grand final of the immensely popular show Produce 101.
The programme attracted 4.76 billion online views between the first episode airing in April and the final in June, and prompted extensive discussions on social media.
Tencent, which co-produced the show and holds the contract of the artists, also released a notice via Weibo on Thursday evening, denying their claims of overwork and demanding that they honour their contracts. However, it did not say whether it would take the matter to court.
Meng and Wu are already members of the Korean girl group Cosmic Girls and Yuehua said it had offered to help promote both groups but had been turned down.
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Contract disputes are a common problem in the Chinese music industry, especially when television talent shows bring together a number of singers who already have their own agents.
Music industry analysts have previously warned that girl groups on the mainland – in contrast to their counterparts in Japan and South Korea – will struggle to build a viable career due to the particular constraints of the Chinese entertainment industry.
Fans have flooded social media in support of the artists, saying they would follow these artists wherever they went, although some critics argued that if they could not handle the workload they should not have entered the contest.
Meng, 19, has already built up a huge following and featured in the Forbes China’s 30 Under 30 list of the most influential young Chinese.