China wary of PAGCOR POGO plan

THE Chinese Embassy in Manila yesterday expressed “grave concern” over plans by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) to transfer Chinese online gambling workers to self-contained communities or hubs, a move that may infringe the basic legal rights of the concerned workers.

In a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy, it “strongly urges the Philippine government to effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the Philippines.”

Earlier, PAGCOR vice president Jose Tria said the proposal to confine them in designated areas is intended to limit their interactions with the locals amid complaints of unruly behavior of Chinese workers.

The embassy said Chinese citizens overseas have always been required to abide by local laws and regulations and not to work illegally in foreign countries.

However, it said that a large number of Chinese citizens have been illegally recruited and hired by the Philippine gaming industry and also for Philippine casinos.

It said “in many cases, the employers of Philippine casinos, Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGOs) and other forms of gambling entities do not apply necessary legal work permits for their Chinese employees. Some Chinese citizens are even lured into and cheated to work illegally with only tourist visas.”

“Many of the Chinese citizens working illegally in Philippine casinos or POGOs and other forms of gambling entities are subjected to what media described as ‘modern slavery’ due to severe limitation of their personal freedom,” it said.

The statement added “their passports are taken away or confiscated by the Philippine 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.

“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.”

Offshore gambling, it said, has resulted in cross-border crimes, such as money laundering, which undermines China’s financial supervision and financial security.

It has also contributed to China’s increasing social problems and crime rate, the embassy said.

Any form of gambling by Chinese citizens, including online-gambling, gambling overseas, opening and operating casinos overseas to attract citizens of China as primary customers, is illegal, the embassy said.

Thus, it said “the Chinese side hopes and urges relevant departments of the Philippine government to pay more attention to China’s position and concerns and take concrete and effective measures to prevent and punish the Philippine casinos, POGOs and other forms of gambling entities for their illegal employment of Chinese citizens and crack down related crimes that hurt the Chinese citizens.”

For its part, China will carry out more operations to prevent and combat cross-border gambling as it sought joint cooperation with Philippine law enforcement agencies to curb such illegal activities, the embassy said.

The embassy said Chinese companies or individuals in the Philippines must “immediately stop relevant illegal activities, otherwise they will be punished in accordance with Chinese law.”