The Chinese government says it is “highly concerned” about the detention in the Philippines of a number of Chinese citizens, confirming that the action by the authorities there involved an “operation against illegal online gambling”.
On Friday the Associated Press reported – citing Jaime Morente, the Bureau of Immigration Commissioner for the Philippines as the source – that on Thursday the authorities there had held 1,240 Chinese nationals suspected to be “working illegally for an online gambling operator”.
The phrasing of the report suggested the alleged illegality might be linked to the immigration status of those held, rather than that the online gambling operations were of themselves illegal. The Associated Press piece said the Philippines authorities “were still awaiting the results of an investigation by the Justice Department’s cybercrime unit to see if [the employer of those detained] was running an illegal online gambling site.”
At the regular Monday briefing for the media given by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, ministry spokesman Geng Shuang was asked about the detentions.
“The Chinese government always requires its citizens abroad to live and work in accordance with local laws and regulations, not to participate or engage in activities that may impair their own rights and interests, such as gambling,” said Mr Geng.
But he added: “Meanwhile, we are highly concerned about the Philippine side’s detention of a large number of Chinese citizens. We will continue to monitor closely the development of the situation, keep in touch with the Philippine side, and urge the Philippine side to properly settle the matter without delay.”
Friday’s Associated Press report said the Philippine immigration Bureau indicated the Chinese nationals were working as call centre agents for what was suspected to be a gambling operator at a place identified as the “Fontana Leisure Park” in Clark Freeport, a former U.S.-run air base north of Manila.
Another report on the same story filed by the news agency described the premises as a resort and casino complex.
The website of Jimei Group, which says the entity is an investor in the Macau VIP gambling market, lists the Fontana Casino at the Fontana Hot Spring Leisure Parks at Clark as part of its Philippine operations.
In September the state-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor) – a national gaming operator-cum-regulator that under Presidential Decree No. 1869, gazetted in 1983, is directed by the Office of the President to remit some of its income for national infrastructure and social projects – said it had started accepting letters of intent from companies wishing to acquire a Philippines licence for offshore gaming.
The country’s current president, Rodrigo Duterte, has indicated he wishes to have closer ties with China; a country that has recently been taking enforcement action against companies and individuals it suspects have illegally enticed its citizens to gamble overseas.
Pagcor is chaired by Andrea Domingo, a political ally of Mr Duterte and a former head of the Philippine immigration service.
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