The Chinese government is not known to be the most forgiving. A soft touch it does not have. In its crosshairs at the moment is online gambling and more specifically, online gambling sites based in the neighboring Philippines. Last week, the Chinese Embassy issued a lengthy statement on the problems it has with such sites.

“According to the Chinese laws and regulations, any form of gambling by Chinese citizens, including online-gambling, gambling overseas, opening casinos overseas to attract citizens of China as primary customers, is illegal,” the statement says. “The casinos and offshore gaming operators (POGOs) and other forms of gambling entities in the Philippine target Chinese citizens as their primary customers.”

The statement goes on to discuss the problems these sites pose for China. The complaints are largely the same as what we hear from anti-online gambling opponents in the United States:

1) Money is exiting China and going to illegal gambling sites in the Philippines. Money laundering ensues. China believes the monetary sums add up to “hundreds of millions of Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) every year” and have found their way to Philippine real estate.
2) “Crimes and social problems” are on the rise in China as a result of the online gambling.

One gripe China has with these sites, though, is fairly unique. The opening of the Chinese Embassy’s statement reads:

The Chinese Embassy has taken note of recent remarks by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGOR) vice president Jose Tria that Chinese working in Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) will be transferred to “self-contained” communities or hubs. The Chinese Embassy expresses its grave concern over such potential move by PAGOR, which may infringe on the basic legal rights of the Chinese citizens concerned, and strongly urges the Philippine government to effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the Philippines.

Later on, the Embassy says many of these Chinese citizens working in the Philippines are “modern slaves,” who have their passports taken away by their employers.

“They are confined to live and work in certain designated places and some of them have been subjected to extortion, physical abuse and torture as well as other ill-treatments,” the statement reads. “At the same time, dozens of kidnappings and tortured cases of Chinese citizens who gamble or work illegally in gambling entities in the Philippines have taken place. Some Chinese citizens were physically tortured, injured or even murdered.”

Similar abuses have been documented in Qatar as the country imports workers to prepare for the 2022 World Cup.

The Chinese government has pledged to “crack down” on cross-border online gambling, aiming to “destroy networks of criminal organizations” that open online gambling sites and attract Chinese customers. It is also going to go after “underground banks,” payment processors, and domestic network operators that facilitate online gambling and financial transactions.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping will discuss the matter at a meeting later this month.

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