A Chinese national who claimed to be a “blood slave” for criminal gangs and shared his story with the media has been arrested for inventing the harrowing experience to avoid having his illegal entry into Cambodia discovered, according to an announcement by the National Police after the case had been reported in international media.
The story had initially been told to the Chinese Beijing Youth Daily outlet by the alleged victim before being picked up by the UK-based Daily Mail.
The Chinese media outlet reported that the self-proclaimed victim, identified as Li Ya Yuan Lun, had been held captive for six months, during which he had 27 ounces of blood extracted from him every month.
It claimed that Li, 31, responded to a fake job posting that advertised work as a nightclub bouncer in China’s southwestern Guangxi region.
Beijing Youth Daily said Li was then trafficked and smuggled to the Cambodian coastal province of Preah Sihanouk by a gang who allegedly sold him to another criminal operation for $18,500, where he was forced to work in various telemarketing fraud schemes.
The Daily Mail published a story on February 21 quoting the Chinese publication.
The National Police said that following the media reports, it conducted an urgent investigation in which it inspected several relevant locations and questioned witnesses, according to a press statement released on February 28.
The force said it discovered that Li had invented the story with the help of three other accomplices to hide the fact that he had crossed the border into Cambodia illegally. It added that his medical state was a result of unspecified “chronic illness”.
The three accomplices were then alleged to have instructed Li to say that he was confined, tortured and subsequently forced to sell his own blood.
The police said: “Currently, Li Ya Yuan Lun and his three accomplices … have been sent to court to face legal action.”
But Huot Vichet, spokesman for the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court prosecutor’s office, said on February 28 that while the court had already received the case, it was yet to level any charges as the suspects were still being questioned.
Meanwhile, the force called on social media users and the media to make corrections on their reporting about the case to avoid public confusion.
“We call on professional journalists and social media users to respect codes of ethics and professionalism by not reporting stories without clear sources,” it said, “and especially to refrain from making conclusions on any cases without clear evidence” as it would cause undue fear among the Cambodian public as well as potential tourists and investors.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said that since the story was related by the alleged victim himself, authorities should conduct a thorough and transparent investigation in order to ensure that such a case will not occur in Cambodia.