Once a financial securities analyst in China, Lu Xiangri never imagined he might be a victim of trafficking and enslavement by Chinese cyber-scam operations in Cambodia.
Arriving in the Southeast Asian country in September 2020, the 32-year-old dreamed of starting his own business. To learn the ropes, he offered to help manage a friend’s restaurant in the capital, Phnom Penh. His friend was from the same village in China. Lu had watched him become wealthy, buying a big house and living well. He wanted the same for himself and his family – his parents, wife and two-year-old son.
But in 2021 COVID-19 hit hard, and the restaurant closed. Lu was stranded in Cambodia without a job, unable to afford the escalating airfares and quarantine expenses to get him home.