China used prisoners for gold farming

Labour camp prisoners forced to play online games for profit of guards

Tags: ChinaE-commerceMMOOnline gaming
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China used prisoners for gold farming While online gaming is an increasingly popular hobby in China, the report suggests that prisoners were forced to play to farm gold. (Getty Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  May 26, 2011

A report in the Guardian newspaper claims that prisoners in a Chinese labour camp were forced to play online games, to accrue virtual currencies, which were then sold for real money by prison guards.

According to a former inmate, political prisoner Liu Dali, inmates at the Jixi labour camp would not only spend days on real world hard labour, but would also put in 12-hour shifts gold farming, which could earn prison guards up to 5,000-6,000 rmb ($770-930) per day.

Liu Dali, who was imprisoned from 2004 to 2008, said up to 300 prisoners per shift were forced to play games, and that guards would beat them if they failed to meet quotas.

"If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. 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," he said.

Gold farming is the practice of carrying out tasks and often repetitive actions that earn in-game credits in multiplayer online games, and then trading the credits for real currency with other players.

Gold farming has become an industry of itself in China, with the China Internet Centre reporting that $1.96bn of virtual currencies were traded in China in 2008. There are an estimated 100,000 full time gold farmers in China, with farmers often working in ‘sweat shop' like conditions.

The report did not indicate whether prisoners in China are still being used for gold farming, or whether the practice was officially sanctioned.

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