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China on Thursday made a strong statement against the proliferation of the so-called Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) that it said victimize Chinese citizens.

In a statement posted on its website, the Chinese Embassy in Manila said that “according to the Chinese laws and regulations, any form of gambling by Chinese citizens, including online-gambling, gambling overseas, opening casinos overseas to attract citizens of China as primary customers, is illegal”.

The embassy issued the statement in response to recent remarks by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) vice president Jose Tria that Chinese working in POGOs will be transferred to "self-contained" communities or hubs.

The Chinese Embassy expressed its grave concern over such potential move by Pagcor, saying it may infringe on the basic legal rights of the Chinese citizens concerned. Instead, the embassy strongly urged the Philippine government to effectively protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens in the Philippines.

“The Chinese government always requires Chinese citizens overseas to abide by local laws and regulations and not to work illegally in foreign countries. The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines has repeatedly issued consular reminders in this regard, and has on many occasions clearly stated the position to relevant departments of the Philippines,” the embassy said.

It noted that the casinos and offshore gaming operators and other forms of gambling entities in the Philippines were targeting Chinese citizens as their primary customers. “A large number of Chinese citizens have been illegally recruited and hired in the Philippine gambling industry. In many cases, the employers of Philippine casinos, 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,” it said.

It said the fact that the Philippine casinos and POGOs and other forms of gambling entities were targeting Chinese customers had severely affected the Chinese side in the sense that huge amount of Chinese funds was illegally flown out of China and illegally into the Philippines, involving crimes such as cross-border money laundering through underground banking, which undermines China's financial supervision and financial security.

“A conservative estimate shows that gambling-related funds flowing illegally out China and into the Philippines amounts to hundreds of millions of Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) every year. There are analysts who believe that part of the illegal gambling funds has flown into local real estate markets and other sectors in the Philippines,” it said.

“Second, the fact that a large number of Chinese citizens are lured into illegal gambling has resulted in an increase of crimes and social problems in China. In particular, some gambling crimes and telecom frauds are closely connected, which has caused huge losses to the victims and their families,” the Chinese Embassy said.

“Third, 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. 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,” it said.

The embassy said 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,” it said.

The embassy said the Chinese government will intensify efforts to address the problem. “The Chinese government attaches great importance to the crackdown on cross-border gambling activities. The Ministry of Public Security of China has taken many actions and will carry out more special operations aimed at preventing and combating the cross-border gambling. China will focus on investigating and cracking some major cases, including those of organizing gambling overseas and opening online gaming, and will destroy networks of criminal organizations involved in recruiting gamblers from China by overseas casinos and using the Internet to open casinos in China,” it said.

“China will also crack down on 'underground banks' and online payment platforms that provide a financial settlement for cross-border gambling and other crimes, and wipe out domestic network operators and companies that provide technical support for such crimes,” 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,” the embassy said.

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