A former academic researcher who was tricked into working for telecom fraud gangs in Myanmar more than a year ago has returned to China, according to a social media post from the man, who wrote that he hopes his story can provide a warning to others.
A post appeared on microblogging platform Sina Weibo on Monday night by a man claiming to be Zhang Shi, a former researcher for the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Jiangxi province, and victim of the high-profile telecom fraud case.
When news of the case was first made public in August, people were shocked to learn that a well-educated person could be duped in such a way.
In the post, Zhang, using the username "Dubitabam", said: "I've overcome many obstacles to return home. It's the result of collective efforts from my family and friends, government bodies, media and many others."
He said he wanted to share his story so others can avoid going through the same tough journey. On Tuesday morning, Zhang posted again.
Although it all happened in Myawaddy (a township in Myanmar), to lure people into telecom fraud the gang members would advertise for job opportunities in Thailand because Myanmar is well-known for telecom fraud activities, he said in the latest post.
Zhang said on Tuesday that it all started when he was offered a high-paying customer service job at a company in Singapore last year, so he could use the money to pay off his debts and marry his girlfriend.
The agency then told him there would be a delay in getting the visa and advised him to go to the company's branch in Thailand instead before the visa could be issued. "I didn't realize that it was a trap at the time," Zhang said.
He arrived at Mae Sot township in Thailand that borders Myawaddy on Aug 15 last year. From there he was soon taken across the border into Myanmar and a Myawaddy industrial park, where his cellphone and identity documents were taken away, he said.
He soon realized he had fallen into the hands of telecom fraud gangs.
"Most people in the industrial park are in their 20s and 30s. And most people want to get out because they were all lured there," said Zhang, adding that unlike the telecom fraud gangs based in northern Myanmar that target victims in China, those in Myawaddy target people in Europe and the United States, Zhang said.
He was only allowed to make calls to his family while under the surveillance of gang members. If he failed to meet his sales target, he would receive physical punishment, he added.
Because he talked about the industrial park on a call with his girlfriend in April, he was beaten up and then locked up. And because he leaked the information, the gang members decided to let him go in June and demanded he ask for ransom money from his family, Zhang said.
When the ransom money failed to go through, Zhang was transferred to another team in early August before being allowed to leave the industrial park on Aug 24, he said.
"The telecom fraud gangs felt the pressure after my case was widely reported. Before I left they forced me to admit that I came voluntarily."
Zhang was then taken to a hotel in Thailand and later taken away by Thai police because his visa to Thailand had expired. He was later deported back to China.
"I saw many people entering the industrial park as I was on my way out. I hope people can learn from my experience and not be fooled," Zhang said.