Why Blackpink's Baby Panda Video Is Causing So Much Controversy

Pop stars pose with animals all the time. From big cats in Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's "WAP" music video to Ariana Grande filming an entire video for her song "breathin" around her pet pig, Piggy Smallz, artists playing with animals is nothing new. So when K-Pop group Blackpink posed with baby panda Fu Bao on their online reality show, 24/365 with Blackpink, it was simply adorable and nothing more, right?

Wrong! The scene caused huge controversy in China, not just in their media, but on Chinese social media, as well. Users on Weibo — essentially "China's version of Twitter" — expressed outrage, leading to a hashtag translating to "Korean artists wrongly handled panda cubs," according to The New York Times. Blackpink removed the video from YouTube and announced that they would delay the release of the next episode of 24/365 with Blackpink.

But why was the photo-op so particularly upsetting? Well, it has to do with the fact that the panda is actually owned by the Chinese government.

The panda Blackpink handled was on loan from China

The reason that the video of Blackpink handling the panda was so controversial has to do with China's policy known as "panda diplomacy." The Chinese government will loan out pandas to zoos all over the world, but still owns the pandas — even those that are born outside of China. Some users on Weibo called for South Korea to return the pandas to China if they were going to be "tortured like this," according to The New York Times.

People were also concerned that the members of Blackpink could spread disease to the baby panda. While humans can't infect pandas on their own, it is possible to transmit zoonotic infections from pets, per The New York Times. FYI: the Blackpink ladies have quite a few fur babies between them.

Pandas are already considered a vulnerable species and they are notoriously difficult to breed, so typically they're only handled by trained professionals wearing appropriate gear to keep the animals safe. While the members of Blackpink did wear gloves while touching the baby panda, Weibo users noted that the K-pop group's members "touch[ed] the snout of an adult panda" without gloves on.

Though The New York Times did expect the controversy to blow over — K-Pop groups find themselves in scandals with some regularity — Blackpink is likely just going to have to deal with the fury of the internet until then.