Chinese Force Prisoners to Raise Money Playing Online Games

Monday, 30 May 2011 01:19 PM

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Many Chinese prisoners often are forced to endure not only hours of backbreaking work all day but also long nights of mind-numbing online gaming, during which they collect digital gold pieces that guards turn into real cash, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports.

Ex-prisoner Liu Dali, 54, told the Guardian that, by day, he was forced to break up rocks and dig holes and at night, was required to participate in marathon sessions playing online games such as World of Warcraft and Everquest.

These richly detailed titles are known as “massively multiplayer online role-playing games.” Players go on open-ended quests in huge fantasy worlds, amassing fortunes in game gold that can be sold online for real money, though hardcore gamers frown on this practice. What’s more, the games’ developers can ban such players if they are caught.

"Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labor," Liu said of his time at the Jixi labor camp in northeast China. "There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn [$771 to $925] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off."

It is thought that 80 percent of the planet’s “gold miners” playing such games are in China, where it is estimated that nearly $2 billion in game gold was traded in 2008. The Chinese government started regulating the practice in 2009, ruling that only businesses licensed to do so could trade in the faux booty.

"If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically,” said Liu. “They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air, and after I returned to my dormitory, they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things.”

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