At 3.28am on 29 June 2021, Xu Mingjian crept out of a dorm room inside a gated compound in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and made his way to the second floor, where his friend, another victim of trafficking, was waiting. The two had hatched a desperate plan to escape the modern slavery nightmare they’d been in since Xu was sold to an online scam company in the same building three months earlier, believing a well-paid data entry job awaited him.
They jumped from the balcony onto the first floor of the building next door, hoping to climb down to the ground and run. But Xu landed badly, injuring his spine.
“It was so painful and I couldn’t stand up. My friend ran away and left me when he saw I was injured,” he says. “The managers thought I’d die so they didn’t take me back into the building, they just stood watching and laughing at me.”