Theme parks are big business, but one destination in China has courted controversy since it opened back in September 2009.
Kingdom of the Little People, located near rural Kunming, Yunnan, is notorious for only featuring performers with dwarfism.
With over 100 employees ranging from the ages of 18 to 40, it asks that workers be less than 130 cm tall (4 ft 3 in). The employees are all housed together in nearby dorms.
Park visitors can witness the performers acting out Qigong body posturing and movement, along with ballet Swan Lake and hip-hop dance routines. Many of these performances are presided over by a ‘Dwarf King’ who rides around on a three-wheeled motorcycle clad in a cape.
Kingdom of the Little People offers work to people with dwarfism (owner Chen Mingjing wants to eventually employ 1,000), but the park has understandably come in for harsh criticism with accusations that it’s exploitative and resembles a human zoo.
British actor Warwick Davis, who was born with rare form of dwarfism Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, hit out at the park on an episode of Karl Pilkington’s Sky travel documentary An Idiot Abroad.
“It’s like going back to the days of the freak show,” he said. “They’re all in there together and you’re going in there to gawp at them, basically. I think it’s terrible. It’s segregation. It’s exploitation.”
Further criticism has come from organisations the Little People of America and Handicap International.
Some Kingdom of the Little People employees don’t view the park in the same way. When it was launched seven years ago, spokesman Fu Tien said worked didn’t feel exploited there.
“As small people we are used to being pushed around and exploited by big people. But here there aren’t any big people and everything we do is for us,” he said.
The park is still up and running in 2016, but no matter the year controversy won’t be far away.