The appearance of nine-year-old Hong Kong singer Celine Tam on US talent show America’s Got Talent has reignited a debate on parenting, with some members of the public accusing them of denying her a childhood.

Other bloggers have defended her parents, however, claiming that they are merely helping her achieve her dreams.

Tam’s audition – in which she sang Celine Dion’s 1997 hit My Heart Will Go On – went viral over the weekend, amassing over 7 million views since it was posted on YouTube on Friday.

Local media reported that she began learning to sing when she was three years old, practices for several hours a day, and has participated in numerous televised Hong Kong and mainland Chinese talent shows.

‘Monster parents?’

But Tam’s story sparked questions from some Hongkongers. Some claimed that her father – who represents her in business affairs – is a “monster parent” taking advantage of her.

“This is outrageous,” wrote on commenter on the Facebook page of news outlet Apple Daily. “Just another way for her parents to make money off her.”

“I don’t think America’s Got Talent is much of a commercial performance… it’s not much of a problem,” wrote blogger ManInCentral-CK on digital outlet Stand News. “But signing for an agency [Hong Kong’s HMV Digital China Group], is most certainly a ‘commercial activity.’ And this commercial decision was certainly made by her parents and not herself.”

Celine Tam Singer America's Got Talent
Celine Tam. Photo: America’s Got Talent screenshot via YouTube

“Why couldn’t they have waited until she’s older and more mature before pushing her out in front of everyone?”

Others disagreed, however, claiming that Tam’s experience was not extraordinary. “Many children have joined similar competitions, from America’s Got Talent to Britain’s Got Talent, to Hong Kong’s Minutes To Fame and The Voice,” wrote blogger Kwok Man-ling on news site HK01.

“Why is it that there’s so much criticism once Celine Tam takes the stage and becomes internationally famous?”

See also: ‘My daughter is dazed’: A parent’s experience of Hong Kong’s high-pressure primary school TSA tests

“As a parent, if you don’t make a decision for your kids, people will say you’re irresponsible,” wrote ManInCentral-CK. “But if you make a decision for them, people will say you don’t respect their wishes.”

Elson Tong

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.