A senior executive at China’s Internet-search provider Baidu Inc, has been detained by police in the mainland city of Hangzhou, in connection with an inquiry into alleged promotion of gambling websites, according to a Sunday report by a mainland media outlet, The Paper, citing anonymous sources said to be familiar with the matter.
Shi Youcai was identified in the report as a senior consultant to Baidu. He has been described by other Chinese media outlets as one of the founders of the brand.
Mr Shi was reportedly held by police at an airport in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang, a coastal province in central China, on September 15, over illegal promotion of gambling websites. Several other people – described respectively as either “agents” or “clients” of gambling services, were also detained, The Paper reported.
The media outlet’s report did not specify whether it was suspected that illegal promotion of gambling websites was linked either to the Baidu search engine or its services.
The Paper reported in May last year, that the Baidu brand had been the subject of complaints that online chat rooms it hosted, had been used to publish posts for job recruitment at “gaming companies based in Cambodia”, and for hiring people for promoting online gambling services.
At the time, the media outlet had carried a response from Baidu, saying that the company had confirmed the content of the online chat rooms, and would report the content to mainland police, and assist in any investigation by them.
Baidu faced investigation by China’s Internet regulator in 2016 following media reports that illegal gambling websites had been able to advertise via Baidu’s search engine; with some of the firm’s employees allegedly profiting from it.
It had been widely reported in international media outlets, that online gaming operations targeting Chinese consumers had been established in recent years in Sihanoukville, a coastal city in Cambodia.
In September 2019, it was also widely reported that a number of Chinese nationals had left that city, coinciding with the decision of the Cambodian government in August that year, not to issue any more online gambling licences for operators based in that country.
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