Prisoners in China forced to produce virtual gold for guards

Liu Dali, a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp in the Heilongjiang province in China, has detailed his strange ordeal as he was forced to produce virtual gold as part of his incarceration. Liu would perform backbreaking mining tasks, carve toothpicks and chopsticks from wood planks, memorise communist literature and assemble car seat covers – and also hop into games like World of Warcraft to perform mundane and repetitive tasks to acquire gold.

Liu told the Guardian about the odd forced labour:

There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard [the guards] say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [US$770-925] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off. Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour.

The task he performed, known as “gold-farming”, is benefited from by millions of gamers who are willing to pay real money for virtual credits inside a game. If Liu did not meet his work quota, he was punished 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.” Liu said he played for so long he could “barely see things.”

While Liu was released in 2007, he still believes the business is lucrative for prison guards as they can make more money from gold-farming than other manual labour tasks. The Guardian notes that around 80% of all gold farmers come from China, with a total full-time population of around 100,000. In China, it is illegal for businesses to trade fictional currencies without a license, but it seems prisons are somewhat exempt and brutally exploit inmates to produce fictional gold.

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20 Comments

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I'm not sure I understand the complaint fully. I don't think the prisioner should be tortured, but making a prisoner work while in jail doesn't seem like a problem to me. You give up your freedom when you commit the crime that landed you in prison.

The fact that the prisoner doesn't earn any monetary reward for their work is immaterial. If they wanted to earn a fair wage for their work then they shouldn't be in prison. While in prison they should be paid nothing to aid in recouping the costs of incarcerating them.

That being said, the money should be going to the state and not the guards personal accounts...

SHaGGGz said,
Surprising level of support for the Chinese criminal justice system here.

Yeah I know. No one sees prison guards exploiting inmates to gain personal finances from illegal activities as wrong?

make the prisoners build/fix/expand roads, make them pay for what they did, so others wannabe idiots would think twice

or course it will not eliminate crime, but lower it

Genius idea - instead of building gyms, movie theaters, and schools in their prisons they are actually making the prisoners suffer for going to jail. Too many prisons in the US are like resorts.

I really couldn't care less about the sob story of some Chinese person. Get the hell on with the hand you're dealt, in this case communism... the wider world has its own problems.

ahhell said,
You sound like a well adjusted individual.
Kudos to you good sir.

/s

I'd rather be what I am than a soppy liberal with more concern for the Chinese and other peoples than its own. Apologies for not crying over one of millions of cases of abuse in China...

LordBattleBeard said,
I really couldn't care less about the sob story of some Chinese person. Get the hell on with the hand you're dealt, in this case communism... the wider world has its own problems.

Which sob stories you rather hear so?

This wouldn't be happening if western gamers weren't so damn lazy and just played the game properly instead of all this buying gold + powerlevelling crap.