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February 11, 2010

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Children's dreams shattered by TV audition that never was

A WOMAN has disappeared after reportedly gaining nearly 800,000 yuan (US$117,000) from more than 300 children who thought they were attending auditions to perform at the Spring Festival gala to be broadcast by China Central Television.

Last December, many schools in Henan, Guangdong, Fujian and Hubei provinces and northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region received invitations from the woman, surnamed Meng, who said she was looking for children to perform at the prime-time show, one of the most popular entertainment programs for Chinese.

Attracted by the chance to appear on television, the children and their teachers traveled to Beijing, where the television station has its headquarters, only to find they had been tricked, the Beijing Times said yesterday.

Zhao Lin, one of the teachers from Henan Province, took 30 children to Beijing last Friday where they were told they were to be filmed in the Great Hall of the People. However, when they got there Meng said they could not get into the hall until they paid their fees, said the report.

After giving Meng a total of 50,000 yuan, Zhao and her students were sent to a hotel to rest. The next morning, they were told the Great Hall of the People was closed but they would be using another smaller hall.

However, during rehearsals, there was no sign of Ju Ping, a famous CCTV children's program host. It had been promised that she would be there.

On Monday, the children gathered at a local cinema for the audition.

"It was a mess," said Zhao. The children had little time to perform because a magic show was due to take place.

After the "audition" was over Meng disappeared and her phone had been switched off, according to the report.

When officials from China Central Television were contacted they said there were no plans for such an audition and they hadn't asked anyone to get children together to perform for the Spring Festival gala.

The disappointed children left Beijing on Tuesday.

CCTV's Spring Festival gala begins at 8pm on Lunar New Year's Eve and ends in the small hours the next day.

The program was first held in 1983, and it has since become an indispensable part of the celebrations for Chinese people during and after their reunion dinner, attracting about a billion viewers every year.


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