Does CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative Make Cambodia a Haven for Human Traffickers and Scammers?

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For the past few years, many people have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Criminals are taking the opportunity to find their next targets online. Hongkongers are no different. In recent weeks, Hongkongers became victims of human trafficking scams in Cambodia.

While the Hong Kong Police Force depends on the regime for action, Taiwan has been making swift rescues.

Many argue that the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative has become a fast track for cross-country crimes in South East Asia.

Why Cambodia?

An article on Up Media described that China’s One Belt and Road has turned Cambodia into a haven for criminals. The Belt and Road project has also been a heavy focus for the Hong Kong government to help the CCP link to the Silk Road area. The report explains that the criminals behind the trafficking scene are the mainland’s businessmen. Many Chinese-funded enterprises in Cambodia have been involved in corruption or fraud. Their close relationships with Cambodian politicians breeze them through the port development.

In 2013, CCP Leader Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative. Since then, the Cambodian government has greeted Chinese investors with open arms.

A Cambodia-China business forum was held in 2018. The Council for the Development Of Cambodia(CDC) said investments in Cambodia nearly doubled from $3.6 billion in 2016 to $6.3 billion in 2017. It also announced that China was Cambodia’s largest foreign investor.

The numbers show that Cambodia relies heavily on China’s money to progress.

Blessings in Disguise or Trouble Ahead?

Prime Minister, Hun Sen, met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Phnom Penh on Aug. 3. The Cambodian Prime Minister reaffirmed that the two countries’ friendship is concretely rooted. Hun praised the Belt and Road Initiative for bringing “great blessings” to the people of Cambodia.

CNN International published an article in early 2022. It talked about how the CCP has invested millions in Cambodia, particularly in Sihanoukville. “The once quiet seaside haven for backpackers, Sihanoukville, has morphed into a giant construction site…thanks to Chinese developers.”

CNN spoke to Astrid Noren-Nilssonan an expert on Southeast Asian Studies from the Lund University of Sweden. She said, “About 90 percent of businesses and properties are owned by mainland Chinese.”

The giant development site turned a once beautiful beachfront into a Chinatown, as the expert depicted.

Western travelers fled, while locals struggle with losing their income, businesses, and homes.

Human Traffickers’ Base Camp

The U.S. Embassy released its 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report on Cambodia recently.

In the report, Cambodia has been marked as a country in which the government encourages crimes, scams, trafficking, and corruption.

The report stated, “Authorities rarely issued arrest warrants for absconded defendants unless nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) get involved with tracking and apprehending them.”

It detailed the challenges NGOs face when working with Cambodian local police. The U.S. Embassy stated in the report, “The endemic corruption at many governmental levels continued to severely limit individual officials to hold traffickers accountable.”

The Embassy also alleged Cambodian prosecutors and judges were accepting bribes in return for “dismissal of charges, acquittals, and reduced sentencing.”

Prosecution delay, bribery, and corruption are often what breaks or hinder rescue missions. As a result, it is impossible to convict someone who is “believed to have political, criminal, or economic ties to government officials.”

Epoch Times Photo
The 2022 Human Trafficking in Persons Report highlighted the severity of human trafficking in Cambodia. It also mentioned the obstacles nonprofit organizations face when attempting rescues. (Photo by The U.S. Embassy)

CCP is Cambodia’s Boss

The Council of the Development of Cambodia (CDC) approved four investment projects worth almost US$24 million in Sihanoukville Economic Zone (SSEZ).

In 2019, CDC granted a project for a US$10.5 million investment to a Chinese handbag factory, Mei An leatherwear (Cambodia) Co Ltd.

Other SSEZ projects were given to a plywood Factory, Kai Feng Wood Products (Cambodia) Co Ltd for US$6.6 million, a glue and ink plant, Amto Chemical Technology Co Ltd. for US$1.7 million, and Golden Sum Fashion Apparel Co Ltd was approved for a US$5 million venture.

Of the four Chinese companies investing, at least two of them are registered in mainland China. On Made-in-China.com, a website for sourcing suppliers in China, Kai Feng Wood Products is listed as a wood manufacturer in Shandong Province, China.

On listcompany.org, Golden Sun is registered as a fashion accessory manufacturer based in Yiwu, Zhejiang, China.

Geographic Convenience Makes Hongkongers Vulnerable to Criminals

According to the website of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the special economic zone of Sihanoukville is a “landmark project” of the Belt and Road Initiative. It is also the only recognized “China-Cambodia national SSEZ recognized by both governments.”

As SSEZ is close to Cambodia National Highway 4, it connects the Sihanoukville seaport, railway, and airport. They are all within a distance of about 12km. This road connects other nearby countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

Both Hong Kong and Beijing governments have been developing this deserted land over the past 10 years.

Everything Tax-free is a Heaven for Corruption

To ensure money pours in, Cambodia has made the mega development completely tax-free. It means a 100 percent exemption of import tax on any building materials or equipment. Companies entering SSEZ will be eligible for tax-free benefits for the following six to nine years.

There will also be zero export tax or value-added tax.

The Belt and Road will make Sihanoukville become the next Shenzhen. This transformation has increased the demand for people who speak various languages. Hence, human trafficking groups kidnap Cantonese, Mandarin, and English speakers to increase their ill-gotten gains.

Is the ‘Belt and Road’ an Accomplice of Human Trafficking and Organ Black Market?

The Jamestown Foundation published a feature article in China Brief in March. It unveiled the illegal practices of organized crime groups in Cambodia. The criminals are said to utilize the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative as a disguise to grow their illegal operations.

Organized crime groups across Asia engage in online fraud, pyramid schemes, and online gambling. These groups also are responsible for human trafficking as slaves or prostitutes. Smuggling Chinese medicine narcotics, exotic creatures, and animals is part of their “business.” But the most common activity is laundering illegal money from China.

Chinese criminal groups use Malaysia as a base camp to set up shops. In November 2019, the Malaysian Immigration Department launched a raid in Cyberjaya, near the suburb of Kuala Lumpur. Some 680 Chinese citizens were arrested. These scammers tricked netizens into transferring money for a period of up to 6 months. These illegal transactions were through China’s financial banks and WeChat mobile payment.

Belt and Road Aids Mainland Triads to Grow into International Crime Organizations

In an earlier article, we sighted an interview by TVB America of a Mr. Wong who that when traffickers run out of options to sell their hostages they would have their organs removed before disposing of the victims’ bodies and the organs would be sold on the black market.

There are many reportsclaimimg CCP involvement in organ harvesting. International committees have condemned the CCP for harvesting the organs of Falun Gong practitioners.

The Show Goes On

Despite the Hong Kong public’s criticism, the Belt and Road developments are going full steam ahead. The HKgov and the CCP are determined to make Sihanoukville “the Shenzhen of Cambodia“.

The CCP is ready to introduce Belt and Road initiatives to the rest of the world, particularly Europe, and the United States. To further convince foreign countries of the questionable project, a 2-day Belt and Road Summit Forum will commence on Aug. 31 to September 1, in Hong Kong.

Summer Lawson

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