According to a report in UK-based paper The Guardian, China has been using its prison population as slave labor.. in MMORPG's. According to the report, prisoners were put to work breaking rocks and digging trenches in in the coalmines of Northern China. By night prisoners would be forced to play MMORPG's to earn virtual currency, which guards would trade for real-world money.
One prisoner, who served three years at the Jixi labor camp for pointing out corruption in his hometown, described the conditions at the camp in startling detail. Liu Dali told the paper that prisoners were forced to play online games to enrich the guards of the prison. The 54-year-old was a former prison guard who made the mistake of "illegally petitioning" the central government about corruption in his hometown in 2004. Dali says that the online slave labor is probably more lucrative than the physical labor that prisoners are forced to do.
"Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labor," Liu told the Guardian. "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 a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off."
The camp is a re-education facility that uses hard labor to teach prisoners the error of their ways. Dali says that memories of his time there still haunt him. Other "activities" he and other prisoners were forced to take part in included carving chopsticks and toothpicks out of planks of wood until his hands were raw, and assembling car seat covers that the prison exported to South Korea and Japan. He said that he was also made to memorize communist literature to pay off his debt to society.
But of all those activities, the online gaming was the most mentally taxing work. While the grind may have seemed fake or surreal to prisoners, falling behind in these virtual worlds brought real-world punishment.
"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. We kept playing until we could barely see things," he said.
It is estimated that 80 percent of all gold farmers are in China. While the central government issued a directive making it illegal for businesses without licenses to trade in 2009, Dali believes that the practice of using prisoners is still widespread because these places are run by the government.
"Many prisons across the north-east of China also forced inmates to play games. It must still be happening," he said.
"China is the factory of virtual goods," said Jin Ge, a researcher from the University of California San Diego. "You would see some exploitation where employers would make workers play 12 hours a day. They would have no rest through the year. These are not just problems for this industry but they are general social problems. The pay is better than what they would get for working in a factory. It's very different."
"Prison labor is still very widespread – it's just that goods travel a much more complex route to come to the US these days. And it is not illegal to export prison goods to Europe," said Nicole Kempton from the Laogai foundation, a Washington-based group which opposes the forced labor camp system in China.
Liu Dali's name was changed to protect him from retaliation by prison officials and the government.
Source: The Guardian