Story Archive

Surreal Money

“Liu Dali” (a pseudonym to protect his identity), a 54-year-old former prison guard, was jailed for three years for illegally petitioning the Chinese government to crack down on corruption. By day, Liu was forced to labor in the Jexi labor camp in northeast China, breaking rocks in coal mines, carving chopsticks and toothpicks out of planks of wood, and assembling car seat covers. But after hours, he had more work to do: “gold farming.” Liu says prisoners are forced to build up credits in online games such as World of Warcraft, carrying out menial online tasks that build up small amounts of credit, then repeating it for 12 hours at a time. The credits are then sold to gamers overseas — for real cash. “Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labor,” Liu says. “I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000 Chinese yuan [US$770-925] a day.” (MS/London Guardian) ...Someone should petition the government to crack down on that.
Original Publication Date: 12 June 2011
This story is in True’s book collections, in Volume 17.
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