Scam Syndicates In Southeast Asia Need To Be Shut Down. Beijing Can Help
AN EDITORIAL REPRINTED FROM SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
By Josephine Ma
Josephine Ma is China news editor and has covered China news for the Post for more than 20 years. As a correspondent in Beijing, she reported on everything from the 2003 Sars outbreak to the riots in Lhasa and the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She has been based in Hong Kong since 2009. She has a master’s degree in development studies from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s degree in English language from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Shocking accounts have emerged from victims of employment fraud and online love scams in countries like Cambodia and Myanmar
China is a close ally to both nations, and it also has the networks, resources, technology and experience needed to tackle the problem
The plight of Taiwanese and Hongkongers who have fallen victim to employment fraud and online love scams in Southeast Asia has been in the spotlight in recent weeks.
Shocking video footage and accounts have emerged from people who say they were lured to countries like Cambodia and Myanmar by job or romantic offers and then detained, tortured and forced to scam others. Some were trafficked for the sex trade.
Those who have been freed were rescued by the authorities, or their families paid a hefty ransom.
Authorities say hundreds of Taiwanese have been reported missing in Southeast Asia, while in Hong Kong officials say they have received requests for help from dozens of families.
Malaysians and other nationalities have also reportedly been enslaved in the region.
There are mainland Chinese victims too, though the number is not known. The Chinese embassy in Cambodia in July said it had rescued several mainlanders who were being held captive after their families asked for help.
Beijing’s state media propaganda machine has meanwhile used the large number of Taiwanese who have fallen victim to the scams to attack the “incompetence” of the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party.
Official media has criticised the DPP for failing to rescue Taiwanese victims and for its shift away from the mainland for trade and investment to focus instead on Southeast Asian nations, saying this policy had made it easier for the scammers.
China’s embassy in Cambodia has also called for Taiwanese victims to get in contact for help.
But this will not solve the problem – the human trafficking syndicates that are running these scams need to be shut down.
It is well known among the non-governmental organizations which help human trafficking victims that criminal syndicates are often backed by triads and even government officials.
Political determination to wipe out such syndicates is crucial if the authorities are to truly protect people from being trafficked or cheated out of their money – in some cases their life savings – in these online scams.
China is a close ally of Cambodia and a major donor of vaccines and medical supplies to help the country fight Covid-19. It also has a cosy relationship with Myanmar’s military-led government.
Could Beijing use its networks, resources, technology and experience in chasing international fugitives to help these countries crush the syndicates? If it did, it would be a good way to win friends in the region.
SCARS has been carefully monitoring the explosion of scams coming out of Southeast Asia over the last 3 years. We agree that China is the pivotal player in solving this problem because only the People’s Republic of China is willing to use its massive political pressure on these neighboring countries. In 2021 the Chinese were behind more than 400,00 arrests in China and Southeast Asia, which included 55,000 in Myanmar. Many of these arrests were actually rescues of Chinese citizens. However, in whatever way necessary, China has the will that the U.S. and Europe lack in fighting this plague – the U.S. and Europe could take a lesson in how China fights these crimes with so much success by welding the law enforcement action to their political and diplomatic actions.