Dream turned nightmare

Well this is an awful story. But hey, nothing like starting the new year with something that makes us detest humanity. Though technically about a year old, the story of a man from China who was kidnapped and forced to work for an online gambling ring just came to light, so let’s get into it.

According to the South China Morning Post, a 26-year-old man from China named Zhang wanted to take a nice vacation, so he booked a trip to a Southeast Asian country (name the country not disclosed) in November 2019. Being a bargain hunter, as many of us are, he jumped on a travel package for 4,500 yuan (US$630), which was 3,000 yuan (US$420) less than market price.

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. And in this situation, just about the worst possible result happened.

When he arrived at his destination, the driver who picked him up took him to a factory district and said, “Get out of the car, you work here now.”

And that was it. Zhang was trapped. They took his phone, identification, and passport. He tried to fight, but to no avail.

Beatings and lies

The work they had him do: sit on the phone and try to get people to sign up for an online gambling site (one would assume it was an illegal, unscrupulous site). He wasn’t good at it either, because he was too honest of a person. Because of that, he was frequently beaten.

After six months, the kidnappers promised to let Zhang go if he paid them 111,000 yuan (US$15,500). His parents obliged, but of course, the kidnappers were not the truthful sort, so they kept the money and sold Zhang to another company. Desperate, Zhang’s parents paid again when the offer was repeated, but as before, Zhang was not released. His parents ended up forking over about 1 million yuan (US$140,000) in total.

At one point, Zhang thought he might be able to escape. His injuries from the beatings were so bad that he was taken to a hospital. Once there, he tried to hire a local agent to acquire him a passport, but that agent was corrupt, as well, as helped sell him to a third gambling company.

Though that had to have been heartbreaking for Zhang, it actually turned out to be the break he needed. The new company was slow to confiscate phones, so Zhang (who we guess had one on him for work?) was able to get a hold of the police.

Zhang was rescued in October 2022, nearly three years since he was kidnapped. He has since warned others to use an “official,” reliable travel agency when making vacation plans.

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