China News 31st August 2022

China News 31st August 2022

Our sole story this week is about human trafficking in southeast Asia.  Like the human smugglers in Europe, gangs are ruthless with those who are vulnerable and gullible.  Law enforcement in both hemispheres is often inadequate to cope.

The appalling Southeast Asian human trafficking scams continue. The story was first reported by the Taiwanese media. It was initially estimated that more than 3,000 young Taiwanese may have been lured to Southeast Asia. Including Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand.  As on August 16, the Hong Kong media began to report on the deception of Hong Kong people. The Secretary for Security, Deng Bingqiang, revealed that a total of 28 Hong Kong people have asked for help, of which 10 have already returned to Hong Kong. Whether the victim is from Hong Kong or Taiwan, the most shocking thing about the incident is why human trafficking still occurs today? What exactly drives people to be deceived? Has the law a safety net? 

China News 31st August 2022

With low education, less labour, and high monthly salary, are there really big clams jumping on the street?  The SAR government is cooperating with the Commissioner's Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, Interpol, etc., and contacting Southeast Asian countries to try their best to rescue the victims. Based on online information and major reports, scammers can be divided into two categories: overseas recruitment and loan work, as well as online romance scams and investment scams. Fraudsters meet young people mainly through job postings on Facebook and introductions from friends, and lure young people to Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and other countries with high-paying jobs. Among them, there are many occupations, ranging from clerks, accountants, software engineers, to high-bonus game back-end customer service and online gaming industry customer service. 

Taking the situation in Taiwan as an example, the scammers claim that the monthly salary ranges from 40,000 to 100,000 Taiwan dollars (10,000 to 22,500 Hong Kong dollars), including air tickets, board and lodging, regardless of educational background, and no work experience. As for Hong Kong, the scammers will increase their salaries according to the local economic situation, and offer a monthly salary of 40,000 to 50,000 Hong Kong dollars, much higher than Taiwan's 20,000 yuan. For example, Mr. E, a Hong Kong victim, was interviewed by "Hong Kong 01" and revealed that he applied for a job in Cambodia through the introduction of a friend. The "One-stop shop" arranges for him to go abroad and then resells victims who are beaten, electrocuted, imprisoned, and sexually assaulted.

Whether in Taiwan or Hong Kong, once the victim takes part in an online fake recruitment activity, the swindler will provide fake company information and photos of the working environment in order to reduce the vigilance of job seekers; after that, physical interviews and signing of document contracts will be arranged, and the passport documents, accommodation and air tickets required by the victim to go abroad will be arranged.  The victim will be followed to the airport. However, once the victim has landed, his passport will be confiscated immediately, and he will be taken to the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (also known as the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone established by Sihanoukville, the second largest city in Cambodia).

China News 31st August 2022

Being sold to the KK complex in Myawaddy, Myanmar, will end up being forced to engage in fraudulent activities, lure the next victim, or be sold to the next company. It can be seen from Taiwan and Hong Kong reports that if the victim does not follow or even resist, they will face beatings, electric shocks, imprisonment, sexual assault and other forms of abuse. The price list of organ harvesting and selling by fraudulent groups has also been reported on the Internet, but it is difficult to verify the authenticity.

The condition of "redemption" is to submit a "ransom" or "run enough". A victim, Mr. A, said in an interview with Hong Kong 01 earlier that he went to Thailand to find friends, but was unfortunately sold to a different camp in Myawaddy, Myanmar. Every time he was resold, the "redemption fee" would be pumped up, from the initial 10,000 US dollars. Each additional month of stay will be increased by 30,000 to 40,000 US dollars. In addition to the "ransom", he was also told that as long as he got 3 million Hong Kong dollars, he could leave the park, and 5 million could send him to Thailand.

Taiwan's "Reporter" reported that some Taiwanese who were deceived into the Westport Special Administrative Region were asked to deceive 20 people to come to Cambodia to leave, otherwise they would be beaten, electrocuted, detained or resold. There are many guards around the park, including "external security" and "internal security" - the former is the security guard who manages the entrance and exit of the park and the building, and most of them are equipped with guns, while the latter is specially ordered to deal with and clean up some "lazy" employees, to prevent anyone from escaping.

China News 31st August 2022

According to reports, most of those parks have established good relations with Cambodian politicians and local police, so it is difficult to escape if you enter the park. The price list of organ trafficking transmitted on the Internet has transformed the special economic zone into a fraud base.

Is the local government unwilling and unable to handle the matter? Despite the promotion of the "Belt and Road Initiative", many Southeast Asian countries that have been mired in military and civil strife for many years and are poor and backward, have been able to develop their economies and set up special economic zones (SEZs) to attract foreign investment. The Sihanoukville Special Zone where one incident occurred is a cooperation zone signed by Cambodia and the Chinese government for joint investment at the end of 2010. Originally, the leading industries were textile services, hardware machinery, and light industrial appliances. 

However, after the rise of the gaming industry in Westport, in 2019, the Phnom Penh government announced that it had issued 91 casino licenses to Westport, and in August of the same year, it issued a "gambling ban" against illegal online gambling. 

Another "KK Park" involved is Myawaddy, a city in Kayin State in south-eastern Myanmar, close to the border with Thailand.  It was originally a local emerging economic zone, but later evolved into a region outside northern Myanmar due to the booming gaming industry. The foundation of an emerging fraud group; in 2020, the "Card Break Operation" launched by the State Council of China arrested more than 600 Chinese suspects involved in cross-border gambling and successfully blocked the outflow of trillions of yuan. Coupled with travel restrictions under the epidemic, casino revenue has plummeted , some criminals have turned to more profitable online scams and human trafficking. 

Protestors blaming the authorities, obviously ignored the long-standing weak rule of law and military and political chaos in the local area. For example, in Kayin State, where the KK Park is located, there have been frequent conflicts between the government forces and the local civilian armed organizations (Mindiwu) and the local government is simply unwilling or unable to intervene, making the area an illegal hub. A nest of illegal activities happen such as fraud and human trafficking by companies and gangs. These parks transformed from the gaming industry have formed a complex industrial chain in which the Mekong Special Economic Zone is intertwined with online fraud and human trafficking. Many funds, forces, gangs, and criminals from different regions are involved.

China News 31st August 2022

According to the U.S. State Department's Human Trafficking Report released this year, Cambodia was downgraded to the lowest third level: 

Severe human rights violations in these border casino cities and so-called 'special economic zones' require urgent government action.

China News 31st August 2022

Part of the economy The SAR has been turned into an "extrajudicial place" by a group of criminals, operating illegal activities such as online scams and human trafficking.

There is always two sides of a coin, we should also ask why people from Hong Kong and Taiwan, two places with well-established rule of law system, are mired into human trafficking? From the perspective of incentives, some analysts believe that the victims are mainly from Taiwan, and there are only a few dozen people in Hong Kong. First, the fraud group is targeting Taiwan, and Cambodia that have no formal diplomatic relations. The Taiwan government is unable to investigate cases in Cambodia or launch rescue operations. Secondly, there has been a long-term lack of practical development in Taiwan, and the younger generation lacks development opportunities, so they are more willing to explore opportunities in other places. 

According to figures released by the Taiwanese administrative agency on 10th August, the average total salary in Taiwan in June 2022 was NT$53,068 (about HK$14,000), and the average salary after deducting bonuses and overtime pay was NT$44,324. Taiwan dollars (about HK$11,000).  The median income of graduates is only about 7,300 Hong Kong dollars. Due to the low income at home, it is the trend that young people in Taiwan go away to work. According to the statistics of the Taiwan authorities, before COVID, in 2019, 739,000 Taiwanese went to work in other places (including the mainland), accounting for nearly 6.2% of Taiwan's labour force.  

Hong Kong and Taiwan are also lacking legal protection. For example, in Hong Kong, there is currently no specific anti-trafficking or human trafficking legislation.  The government relies on other laws such as the Crimes Ordinance, Immigration Ordinance and Employment Ordinance to enforce the law. The High Court has ruled that the current laws in Hong Kong do not address cases of human trafficking or forced labour, so it is difficult for law enforcement officers to investigate accordingly. 


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