‘Treated like a slave:’ Taiwanese bares abuse from Chinese Pogo employers
MANILA, Philippines — A tearful tell-all from a Taiwanese national, who was forced to work in a Philippine online gaming operator (Pogo), bared the harrowing tale of threats and abuse from her Chinese employers.
Lai Yu Cian, a 23-year-old Taiwanese national, told reporters about her experience in a press conference at the Senate on Wednesday after she sought assistance from the office of Senator Risa Hontiveros.
Hontiveros previously led an inquiry into crimes connected with Pogos, including prostitution and human trafficking.
Lai, who was fighting emotions to hold back tears, said her Chinese employers took away her passport, which prevented her from returning to her home country.
“Until now I cannot find my passport…I have to be strong to tell everything because they threatened me and my boss threatened me and abused me mentally and physically. I already told them that I want to go home…but they forced me to work for them and always say they have a protector behind them who is government people,” Lai said.
“I think, even [if] I run away they will still find me, every time my boss when he is mad he always shouted in Chinese saying ‘You are now my staff, I already bought you from other bosses.’ So they say I have to work for them,” she added.
Lai said she pleaded with her employers to give her passport back but to no avail.
“I even tell them that…’ All the things, that I want my passport, if you don’t give my salary, it’s okay.’ They still keep lying to me,” she recalled.
“They treat(ed) me like a slave. I want to be strong, I don’t want to hide my face anymore, I want to tell everyone I’m asking for help. I was frightened by my boss but right now I have to show my face to the public,” she added.
‘Threatened with bodily harm’
Before reaching out to Hontiveros’ office, Lai was rescued by operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) special task force on February 3.
Before she came out, Lai said she secretly contacted “Karen,” a Filipino real estate broker working for the condominium she was residing in, to ask for help.
A day before the raid, Lai handed Karen a handwritten letter where she appealed “to any concerned law enforcement agency” to rescue her and 30 others—all Chinese nationals—from the Pogo company.
“I, together with 30 of my colleagues, came to the Philippines as tourists when we were duped into accepting an office job in the city, little did we know that it was actually an offshore gaming operation and we were forced to work against our will,” Lai wrote in her Feb. 2 letter, a photocopy of which was distributed to reporters.
“Our individual passports were confiscated and withheld from all of us, preventing us from going home to our respective countries. We feel that our lives are now in danger as management has repeatedly threatened us with bodily harm if we don’t follow their orders,” it further read.
Karen then went to the NBI to report the matter.
Operatives, together with a Chinese interpreter, subsequently conducted the rescue operation.
Authorities were able to arrest four Chinese nationals who were identified by Lai as those who confiscated their passports and threatened them.
“In my company, there is also a lot of Chinese staff and after the NBI arrived [at] our office for the rescue they don’t dare to go with NBI because my boss keep threaten[ing] them in Chinese that if anyone goes with NBI their family in China will be [in danger],” Lai told reporters.
“The reason why I choose to follow NBI because I believe they can help me, truly help me…I just want to run away from them and find the people who can help me,” she added.
Hontiveros said those who were arrested during the raid were charged with illegal detention and illegal recruitment.
“Our immediate concern…is that she [Lai] will be able to be in touch with the Taiwanese Consulate and be able to get a travel document that will allow her to return safe and sound to Taiwan. It’s also our concern as I mentioned, that the BI should not hold against her the expiry of her 30-day tourist visa,” Hontiveros said.
Lai, who was promised a job in an advertising company in the country, arrived in the Philippines in October of last year on a 30-day tourist visa.
Hontiveros said they are also looking into providing Lai “any possible legal assistance to her during the pendency of the case against those who were arrested in the raid.”
“Last but not the least, possibly security provisions for Ivy [who is also Lai’s nickname] just in case those who were arrested and accused are eventually set free,” she added.
Edited by JPV
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