China accounts for 80% of online gold farming, the collecting and selling of virtual currency in games like World of Warcraft in exchange for real word cash, but not everyone toiling away in those pixelated mines are willing workers. Some are prisoners. You might already know about the seedy sweatshops where an estimated 100,000 Chinese workers play for profit, but Chinese inmates are also being forced to mine for virtual gold according to a former political prisoner.
Speaking with the Guardian, Liu Dali, whose name was changed for the article, shared that prisoners were forced to play online games, mining for gold in “World of Warcraft” until they “could barely see things.” And that was following an arduous day of actual mining, in addition to toothpick-carving and car seat cover-assembling.
“There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [$740-$925] a day. We didn’t see any of the money,” said Dali, who served a five year term for “illegally petitioning” the Chinese government regarding corruption. “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.”
Beaten. With plastic pipes. Those Thriller-dancing Philippine prisoners are counting their blessings, when not busting awesome synchronized dance moves.