Tsang was trafficked and tortured after falling victim to an internet scam. He’s not the only one

When Tsang boarded a plane from Hong Kong to Thailand for what he thought was to meet his girlfriend in-person for the first time, he had no idea the traumatising experience that awaited him.
After landing in Bangkok, he was smuggled to Myanmar and detained.

The 28-year-old Hong Kong resident told local media organisation, Headline Daily, his family was forced to pay a large ransom for his release, but not after he endured a month of beatings and torture.

Tsang is among dozens of others who have gone missing in Southeast Asia, allegedly lured by promises of employment or online love scams, slavery and trafficking.
Chinese authorities are actively searching for missing citizens, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.
“The Chinese government attaches great importance to consular protection and makes every effort to safeguard the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens abroad, including compatriots from Hong Kong and Taiwan,” he said.
“The Chinese embassies and consulates in the relevant countries are maintaining close communication with the governments of the countries in which they are stationed, actively searching and rescuing individuals.

“At the same time, we once again remind Chinese citizens to be vigilant of false recruitment information on the internet, strictly abide by law to ensure personal safety, and promptly report information related to fraud and gambling.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman is Wang Wenbin. Source: AP / AP

Hong Kong’s immigration department said it had received 17 requests for help for missing persons related to these scams since January this year.

Twelve Hong Kong residents are alleged to have been detained against their will, with at least two of them held for ransom, authorities said.
It follows reports of several people from Taiwan also allegedly being forced into labour exploitation in countries like Cambodia and Myanmar.
Senior law lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney, Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa, described the stories as “incredibly harrowing”.

“I have only heard of online scams through love interests where there’s been transactions of money, but not movement of people, so I think the particular example where the victim is saying they were lured with an online scam, travelled to Myanmar under the guise of meeting an online girlfriend is quite a rare one,” she told SBS News.

There are also cases of victims coming to or leaving Australia, with various sorts of exploitation involved, Dr Vijeyarasa said.
“The fact that we have a world where people are moving around constantly for work means that there is this opportunity to abuse victims by exploiting them with opportunities that don’t exist, or by presenting those opportunities in a better light than the reality,” she said.
Dr Vijeyarasa said it’s important not to focus just on the extreme examples of smuggling, trafficking, or labour exploitation.
“Sometimes these extreme cases forced these victims to tell stories that are exaggerated to meet the expectation of immigration authorities to ensure that the immigration authority responds and that they can pursue redress.

“So while it’s important to bring visibility to these really extreme examples of abuse, it’s really also important to remind ourselves of the spectrum of exploitation and then victims across the spectrum are entitled to some sort of compensation.”

Dr Vijeyarasa said while these instances – both in Australia and abroad – need to be investigated and redress provided, it’s important to make sure they don’t create a sense of fear among potential future migrants.
“We’ve seen this before where governments have an approach to migration and similarly to sex work, where they try to clamp down on sex work, they try to clamp down on migration,” she said.
“Those governments might be the sending countries who don’t want to disrupt the social cohesion that often happens when people leave the country and migrate, they might be the destination country who don’t want to see new migrants to the country.

“So we need to find the right balance between ensuring the potential migrants are aware of risks, have an opportunity to report those risks and seek support if they suffer as a victim, without suggesting that this type of migration should be stopped or not happening in the first place.”

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