Art Basel Hong Kong went into damage-control mode after pictures of visiting schoolchildren apparently chained together with a piece of string surfaced on social media.
Netizens accused organizers of treating the children “like dogs and prisoners”.
The pictures were uploaded by a visitor on Monday, according to Apple Daily.
A public relations agency for Art Basel said the children, aged five and older, held a piece of string and were not tied to it.
They were on a guided tour of the gallery in which works of 3,000 artists from around the world were displayed from March 13 to 17.
A spokesman said the children were asked to hold the string to avoid getting lost in the large venue.
The gallery conducted 10 guided tours daily for schoolchildren, seven to eight at a time, he said.
Education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen defended the arrangement, saying it keeps children safe, especially during outdoor activities.
However, social worker Chan Kam-ming said it poses safety risks because small children are liable to trip and cause multiple falls.
Also, he said it is difficult to tell what psychological impact such an arrangement might have on children.
Chan said organizers of similar events should instead ask children to put their hands on the shoulder of the person in front of them.
And adult supervision is important, he said.
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