Chinese Name: 金水
Location: Otres Beach, Sangkat Buon, Sihanoukville, Preah Sihanouk Province, Cambodia.
The Jinshui phase 1 development is a complex of 11 buildings located just off Otres Beach and adjacent to another notorious scam compound, Kaibo (see profile here). Together, this area is commonly referred to as ‘Chinatown’ (中国城). In early 2022, China’s Southern Weekly (南方周末) published a dramatic piece of reporting titled ‘Escape from Cambodia’s “City of Online Casinos”’. The report identified numerous locations in Sihanoukville where online scam companies operate ‘hidden’ within, including ‘Jinshui Chinatown’ (金水中国城). The article has since been deleted, but can be found via Wayback Machine.
Units within the Jinshui buildings were rented to companies running a range of online gambling and scam operations. The Southern Weekly report from April 2022 identified several online gambling companies operating from inside Jinshui, including Tianbo Group (天博集团) and Yabo Sports (亚博体育). A Reddit post published in May 2021 by someone who claims to have worked there says that Boya Group (博雅集团), also known as KOK Sports (KOK体育), operates in ‘Jinshui 5’. Recruitment ads typical of online scam and gambling recruiters can be found on online message boards posted by companies that have operated in the complex. For example, in a comment under one such ad by Five Star Group (五星集团) , a person refers to the company as ‘the most famous Five Star of Jinshui Garden’. Other message board chats refer to Grand Forest Group (大森林集团) working on the fourth floor of Jinshui Building 1, with one person complaining that he was not allowed to leave his work at the online gambling company in summer 2021 as international football tournaments were ongoing.
The Chinatown area has featured in Cambodia-based Chinese language media for some time, but it first came to the attention of English-speaking audiences in July 2021, when the husband of a Philippines national reported that his wife was being held against her will in a complex in the area. On arriving in Sihanoukville after responding to a Facebook job recruitment post, the woman had her passport confiscated and was forbidden to leave. Only after the media covered the story was she finally released. It appears that she was held in the Jinshui compound, but the story brought attention to Chinatown as a whole, and since then there has been ongoing coverage of fraud and online gambling operations, forced labour, and violent crime throughout the area.
Following these reports, in September 2021 the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh released a statement:
Our embassy has noticed that media publications in recent days have exposed the existence of illegal and criminal activities including online gambling, fraud, illegal detention, kidnapping, extortion, human trafficking, and drug trafficking in the ‘Chinatown’ area of Sihanoukville. The victims involved are citizens of many countries, most of them Chinese. Our embassy attaches great importance to this and is maintaining close communication with the Cambodian side.
The statement went on to say that China and Cambodia maintain high-level law enforcement cooperation, and that the two sides were in communication, making every effort to ‘eliminate numerous obstacles’, and would launch a joint crackdown as soon as possible.
Media reports showed that for some time the Jinshui compound was entirely enclosed (this changed after a crackdown that began in August 2022, see below). During this period, there were just a few entrance and exit points, which until mid-September 2022 were heavily guarded by private security. When the authors visited the site in June 2022, they saw that walls had been built to block all other access points, and it could be seen in some areas those walls had been made higher at a later date, with an additional layer of fresher cement added on top more recently. These walls were a relatively new addition, and were likely built sometime in 2021, as they were not present during previous visits by the authors in late 2019 and early 2020. Restaurants on the ground floor that face the street had bars through the middle, preventing those in the compound from exiting the compound through the restaurant.
In 2021, Khmer Times ran a series of articles on what it called ‘The China Project’. These stories covered the situation in the Chinatown area, and although they lacked specificity on the exact location, appear to have referred mostly to the Jinshui complex. Based on interviews with local sources, Khmer Times estimated at the time that 8,000 to 10,000 people worked there at any one time, and locals reported frequent episodes of violence and suicides. One local vendor interviewed by the paper in September 2021 said: ‘In the last four months there have been lots of suicides … The last one was in August … If an ambulance doesn’t go inside at least twice a week, it is a wonder.’
Numerous media reports and social media postings have recorded testimony from people who have worked in Jinshui who claim that failure to perform can result in brutal beatings, and that requests to leave are denied unless individuals pay a fee of thousands of dollars. While some have willingly gone to work at Jinshui, some, as in the case of the Philippines woman mentioned above, have responded to deceptive job ads, and others claim they have been kidnapped. A documentary released by Al Jazeera in July 2022 also included testimony from a person who claims he was sold four times between companies operating in Jinshui.
Beijing Youth Daily (北京青年报), the newspaper of Beijing’s Communist Youth League reported on the situation at Chinatown in April 2022, stating that unlike in normal residential compounds, rather than keeping strangers out, the security guards’ job here is to ‘strictly prevent the employees of the online investment company from fleeing without permission’. The article includes testimony of several people who were trapped in online scam compounds. This includes the case of one man who jumped from a window when trying to escape from ‘Jinbei Phase 3 Park’. Injuring his foot badly in the fall, he did not make it far and was recaptured and sold to Jinshui the next day, where he subsequently worked for an online sports betting platform. He told the Beijing Youth Daily that at Jinshui ‘you can hear people screaming in the middle of the night when you are sleeping.’ The Beijing Youth Daily article was subsequently removed from the internet around August 2022, but at the time of writing it still remains available on some websites not based in China.
Even after they do manage to escape, survivors are not safe from retaliation. One post on an online message board put a US$10,000 bounty for the capture of a 20-year-old man who allegedly ‘ran away’ from a company in Jinshui that claimed to have bought him for US$6,000. The post ends with the exhortation: ‘Bounty hunters, move!’ (各大猎人行动吧). (The authors are not linking to this post as it includes pictures of the hunted man’s passport). The authors met three people who escaped Jinshui and subsequently had bounties put on their heads by the companies they left.
Although it appears to have been mostly Chinese nationals that worked in the Jinshui complex, people of other nationalities have been rescued from the area after appealing for help. Online gambling and scam operators originally focused on targeting Chinese people inside China, but later branched out to Chinese speakers in other countries, and eventually began to target non-Chinese gamblers and scam victims, including people in Thailand and Vietnam and beyond. This requires workers who can speak additional languages. Reports by Khmer Times in 2021–22 reported on people of various nationalities being held in or rescued from the area, including Thais, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Vietnamese, Filipinos, South Africans, Russians, Ukrainians, Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, and Nigerians.
In October 2021, following a request from the Indonesian embassy, Cambodian police rescued 41 Indonesian nationals from Jinshui. A few months later, in February 2022, the Cambodian police and military police rescued 32 Thai nationals from the Chinatown area. In April 2022, Channel News Asia (CNA) reported that 16 Malaysians had been rescued from a compound by Cambodian police in cooperation with the Malaysian police force and with assistance from Interpol and Aseanpol. The 16 were reportedly deceived into work in Cambodia and had their documents seized on arrival and were not allowed to leave the compound. The CNA report does not name the compound, but a report from the Global Anti-Scam Organization (GASO), which supported the rescue, shared photo and video evidence indicating the people were held at Jinshui.
The wider Chinatown area has become associated with frequent reports of serious, and often violent, crime. A review of crime reports in Sihanoukville by Voice of Democracy (VOD) in early 2022 found cases of abandoned bodies, homicides, assaults, firearms, extortion, and detention, including crimes in the Chinatown area. In January 2022, two bodies were found in shallow graves on land close to the Jinshui complex.
After many months of denying that illegal confinement was happening in Cambodian scam compounds, a nationwide crackdown on ‘illegal’ gambling commenced in August 2022. This resulted in raids of various gambling locations, including small local gambling rooms and a handful of major compounds that were known to be running illegal online gambling and/or scam operations. Soon after, official statements on the online compounds shifted drastically, and officials began to admit that human trafficking and detention were happening, and that as many as 100,000 people may be involved in ‘illegal gambling’ (officials still appear reluctant to acknowledge that many operations are in fact conducting online fraud). In Sihanoukville, 10 compounds were raided, while others were tipped off that raids were coming, or simply told to stop operating. An exodus of workers from Sihanoukville occurred, with reports that some people moved to compounds in other parts of the country.
Despite the notoriety of the Jinshui compound, it managed to operate undisturbed by police for several years. However, in September 2022, with a crackdown on compounds in the city underway, Jinshui and the neighbouring Kaibo compound largely cleared out within 24 hours. The authors visited the area on 17 September and found it to be unusually quiet. The next day workers could be seen outside with bags waiting for buses to pick them up. Some of these buses went to other compounds in the city, but several were observed leaving the city.
The following day, Cambodia News Today gained access to the Kaibo and Jinshui compounds and saw most people had left, with vehicles loaded with furniture ready to depart. A source told the paper that the provincial government has issued instructions that all compounds are required to open their gates, remove barbed wire, take bars down from windows, and knock down walls in some cases. A raid actually never went ahead at Chinatown, and it remains to be seen if any criminal action will be taken against the owners of the compound and the companies that were operating there. The site remained quiet when China Scam Monitor visited the area in December 2022.
Chinatown’s Developer: Dong Lecheng
Reporting on the situation at Chinatown in April 2022, the now-deleted article in the Beijing Youth Daily mentioned above quoted an ‘insider’ who said the ultimate owner of the Chinatown development, including Kaibo and Jinshui, is a single person: Dong Lecheng (董勒成). There is evidence of links between Dong Lecheng and individuals close to Kaibo, but it is challenging to confirm if Dong Lecheng has active links to the Kaibo complex area. For this reason, Kaibo is profiled separately here. Dong has denied any link to criminal activity in the area.
Dong Lecheng—whose background we describe in more detail in a dedicated section towards the end of the profile—is the founder and chairman of Yunnan Jingcheng Group Co., Ltd. (云南景成集团有限公司). Headquartered in Ruili City, Yunnan Province, Jingcheng Group has worked in cooperation with major companies in China, including state-owned enterprises, and has received local government contracts for civil works. The group has many subsidiaries, in sectors including aviation, construction, hotels, tourism, and jade mining in Myanmar. It began as a border trade company, but later expanded into a large business group. Dong previously held almost 100 per cent of the group’s shares, but in 2018, 70 per cent were transferred to his wife, Chen Qin (陈芹), and 30 per cent to his son Dong Shijie (董世杰). Dong Lecheng remained the group chairman as of 2022.
Dong Lecheng became a Cambodian citizen in 2014, taking the Cambodian name Heng Tong (ហេង តុង). He first registered a company in Cambodia in 2013, and since then has developed strong ties with Cambodia’s business and political elite. In 2014, a delegation from Cambodia visited Jingcheng’s headquarters in Ruili. The group included Suos Yara (ruling party spokesman, central committee member, vice-chair for external relations, and National Assembly member for Preah Vihear) and local tycoons and ruling party senators Kok An and Ly Yong Phat. Ly Yong Phat and Kok An stood alongside Dong Lecheng at the launch of his new company, JC Airlines, in Cambodia in 2017. Kok An was also present at a ceremony marking the arrival of JC Airlines’ new planes in Phnom Penh, as was Chinese fugitive Xu Aimin, who is closely linked to the Kaibo complex (profiled here), and Wang Yong who owns Yongyuan Casino (profiled here) and Bavet Moc Bai Casino (profiled here). Xu also joined the launch ceremony for the airline. When Dong Lecheng opened Rui Li Bank in Phnom Penh, he was joined onstage by Senators Ly Yong Phat and Kok An, as well as Kok An’s son-in-law Rithy Samnang (who prior to his death was closely deeply connected to the Kaibo complex) and his brother Rithy Raksmei (linked to K99 Group, profiled here).
Dong has met Prime Minister Hun Sen numerous times since 2014 (see, for instance, here, here, and here). At a meeting in 2017, the Prime Minister encouraged Jingcheng to invest in Cambodia. Again, Ly Yong Phat was present on that occasion. In 2018, Dong was invited to the Prime Minister’s house to meet him and his wife. In 2019, Chea Sophara (Minister for Land Management) and Hun Mana (Hun Sen’s daughter) led a delegation to meet Dong in Ruili. Also present were Dy Vichea (Hun Mana’s husband, Deputy Chief of Police, and head of the General Department of Internal Security), Chea Sophamden (daughter of Chea Sophara), Yim Leang (husband of Chea Sophamaden, son of Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly, brother-in-law of Hun Sen’s son, Hun Many), Meas Sophearoth (an army general and son of General Meas Sophea), and the vice president of Cambodia’s powerful Canadia Bank. Also present on this trip were the brothers Rithy Raksmei and Rithy Samnang.
In 2018, Dong Lecheng personally sponsored a private Boeing 878 business jet for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s trip to a UN General Assembly meeting. Hun Sen sent a personal thank-you letter to Dong. According to one news report, the rental cost for this plane is around US$70,000 per hour.
The Ministry of Commerce database links Dong to seven companies in Cambodia, including a local subsidiary of Yunnan Jingcheng, JC International Airlines, Cambodian Sihanoukville Entertainment, and Golden Sun Sky Entertainment. His son is a director at Ruili Bank Cambodia as well as at a Jingcheng road and bridge construction company.
The Golden Sun Sky Complex
Dong Lecheng’s signature project in Cambodia is a major hotel and casino development in the Otres beach area of Sihanoukville. This is centred around a massive hotel and entertainment building, flanked by numerous apartment blocks, including Jinshui. While the central casino building has stalled and is not yet open, several surrounding buildings were widely reported to be online scam and gambling complexes.
The broader development is referred to by several names in different reports, including Golden Sun Sky, Haoli Tourism Complex (昊利旅游综合体), the Jingcheng Tourism Complex (景成旅游综合体项目), and Cheerful Bay (悦海湾). In 2018, Yunnan Jingcheng described the complex as the largest tourism real estate project in Sihanoukville, covering 23.7 hectares. The company that is the public face of the development is Golden Sun Sky Entertainment Co., Ltd. which was established by Dong Lecheng in 2017. In Chinese the company is called Haoli Entertainment Co., Ltd. (昊利娱乐有限公司). Although he stood down as chairman in July 2018, he remained closely linked to the company (as discussed below, later the same year he personally signed a deal between Golden Sun Sky and the Macau company Suncity). The central hotel and casino building is known as the Harbour Hotel, or Haigang Hotel in Chinese (海港大酒店). Golden Sun Sky Entertainment received a new casino license from Cambodia’s gaming commission in August 2022.
Jinshui Phases 1, 2, and 3
The part of the complex that has been linked to online scams and bonded labour is called Jinshui, also referred to as Jinshui Garden (金水佳苑) in some Chinese sources. Articles online discuss three phases to the project. Phase one is the row of 11 apartments in the Chinatown area that were completed first and have featured heavily in news reports about online gambling and scam compounds. Phase two sits on the opposite side of the Haigang Hotel building and is currently under construction (see map below for exact locations). In 2018, Jingcheng signed a cooperation agreement with two major Yunnan-based property developers to cooperate on phase 3 of Jinshui, which appears to have not yet started construction. This included Junfa Group (俊发集团), described in some media reports as Yunnan’s largest real estate company, and Huihe Group (汇和集团). A few months later, Dong registered the company Yun Xin Hai Investment Development Co., Ltd. at an address in Sihanoukville. Mo Fei, chairman of Huihe Group was listed as a director, as was another person whose address in China was that of Junfa Group. According to a report by Hong Kong media iFeng, both Mo Fei and Li Jun, the chairman of Junfa Group, can be seen in photos with Dong Lecheng and Alvin Chau, former head of Suncity Group, now imprisoned (returned to below).
Dong sought to bring in a group of wealthy Yunnan investors, including the then richest man in Yunnan, Li Jun, chairman of Junfa Group, and Mo Fei, chairman of Huihe Group. Three months later Dong registered the company Yun Xin Hai, with an address in Sihanoukville. Mo Fei was listed as a director along with another person whose address in China was that of Junfa Group. According to iFeng, both Mo Fei and Li Jun are present in photos with Dong Lecheng and Alvin Chau, former head of Suncity Group, now imprisoned.
The map below shows the complex in full. The location of Jinshui phases 1 and 2 can be seen in blue. The neighbouring Kaibo complex is shown in green (Kaibo is profiled here). As noted above, in 2022 the Beijing Youth Daily reported that Dong Lecheng was rumoured to also be the ultimate owner of the Kaibo complex. While this rumour has been circulating in Cambodia for some time, it is difficult to substantiate. However, according to information provided by people rescued from Kaibo, two buildings in the second phase of Jinshui house scam operators and are reportedly known as ‘Kaibo 2’.
Following reports connecting Dong Lecheng to online crimes, Yunnan Jingcheng published a rebuttal in May 2022. In its statement, the company said a flood of negative news has confused the public, and unverified reports that are ‘inconsistent with the facts have caused adverse public opinion and deeply hurt the reputation and image of the company.’ Following media reports by Al Jazeera and others that named Dong, a stronger statement was issued by the Cambodian subsidiary of Yunnan Jingcheng. In it, the company denied any involvement in human trafficking and cyber fraud and said that it sold the Jinshui Park project in 2018 and the activities of the businesses working there were not affiliated with Yunnan Jingcheng. Describing media reports as slanderous and undermining the legitimate rights and interests of Yunnan Jingcheng Group and Dong Lecheng, the statement ordered those defaming the company to cease or face legal action. Despite these denials, Dong Lecheng has had extensive and well-documented interactions with actors implicated in this industry, and as elaborated below, has in the past faced criminal charges for illegal online gambling activities in China.
Links to K99 Group
In 2018, Dong Lecheng signed an agreement with Rithy Raksmei to sell ‘Jingcheng Tourism Complex No. 1 and No. 2 Apartment Buildings’. Rithy Raksmei is the brother of the late Rithy Samnang, who himself was the son-in-law of Senator Kok An. Kok An and Rithy Samnang are linked to the Kaibo scam complex (profiled here) adjacent to Dong Lecheng’s Jinshui development. When visiting the area in June 2022, the authors observed that a pair of buildings directly next to the Haigang Hotel carry the logo of the K99 Group, which is owned by Rithy Raksmei. K99 Group is also known to own a notorious compound, Triumph City (profiled here). Rithy Samnang can be seen in the background of photos during an inspection of the Golden Sun Sky complex in 2018 by Cambodia’s Minister for Land Management (link now unavailable).
Doing Business with Alvin Chau’s Suncity Group
In 2018, a subsidiary of the Macau-based Hong Kong-listed junket operator Suncity Group Holdings Ltd. signed an agreement via subsidiary Suncity Group Management and Consultancy (Sihanoukville) Ltd. to offer consultancy and management services to Golden Sun Sky Entertainment. Although Dong Lecheng resigned as chairman of Golden Sun Sky in July 2018, it was Dong who signed the agreement with Suncity on behalf of the company in September the same year. The project investment was reported to be US$360 million and included casinos, tourism, and property developments. Under the agreement, Suncity would provide advice and management services for Golden Sun Sky’s casino resort project, while cooperating on projects to explore new markets. The signing ceremony was attended by Rithy Raksmei, Senator Ly Yong Phat, and Senator Kok An.
At the time this deal was signed, Suncity Group Holdings was chaired by Alvin Chau (Cheok Wa Chau / Zhou Zhuohua / 周焯華). In 2019, Australian media reported that Chau had been banned from entering Australia due to links to ‘large-scale money-laundering activities’ and current or past links to the 14K triad—formerly led by ‘Broken Tooth’ Wan Kuok-koi, who is also active in Cambodia. In 2019, Chinese state media ran a report accusing Chau of running a multi-billion-dollar online gaming operation from Cambodia and the Philippines that illegally targeted mainland China. Suncity denied that Chau had been investigated in Australia for triad links.
In November 2021, the Wenzhou City Public Security Bureau issued a warrant for Alvin Chau’s arrest. He was arrested in late 2021 and his trial began in Macau in September 2022. Among the charges he faced, he was accused of running a massive illegal online and proxy betting operation that allowed Suncity VIP Room account holders to place bets online or by phone in VIP lounges it set up in Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines. He was sentenced to 18 years in jail in January 2023 on over 100 charges including organised crime and illegal gaming. Suncity had VIP gaming rooms at the Xigang International Casino, which is located inside the Xi-Hu Resort Hotel in Sihanoukville. Xi-Hu is owned by the same people who operate the Nanhai Hotel, which has been reported to house scam operations (profiled here).
Golden Sun Sky Beach Club
In November 2021, a new part of the Golden Sun Sky development was inaugurated. The Beach Club project is a large villa and adjoined pier that sits on the stretch of beach in front of the Haigang Hotel. The ribbon was cut by Dong Lecheng and several officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Mem Sam An and Preah Sihanouk Governor Kuoch Chamroeun. The governor and his deputy, Long Dimanche, along with senators Ly Yong Phat and Kok An, joined on the stage later in the day. Provincial police, gendarmerie, and court officials were also in attendance.
A Network of Naturalised Cambodian Citizens
As noted above, Dong Lecheng has been a Cambodian citizen for several years. A review of Cambodia’s company database links Dong Lecheng to a number of China-born associates who have also received Cambodian citizenship. All the individuals highlighted in the chart below now hold Cambodian passports.
Dong Lecheng received his Cambodian citizenship in February 2014. Later, on 13 February 2018, three members of Dong Lecheng’s family—the wife Chen Qin (陈芹), son Dong Shijie (董世杰), and Jingcheng vice president Dong Shijia (董世佳)—all received citizenship. On the same day, three of his business associates (Zhao Wei, Xu Shihua, and Zhao Xinyuan) all became naturalised Cambodian citizens. Dual citizenship is forbidden under Chinese law, and therefore all these individuals should by now have surrendered their Chinese citizenship. It is not clear where Dong Lecheng is currently based.
Who Is Dong Lecheng?
Dong Lecheng is from the Jingpo ethnic group and is president of the Cambodian World Jingpo General Chamber of Commerce. The Jingpo are the largest subset of the Kachin people, an ethnic group that mostly resides in Kachin State of northern Myanmar, but who are also present in parts of Yunnan. In a paper published by Dr. Elanah Uretsky in 2016, the author describes Dong as the ‘modern-day Chieftain for the Jingpo community in Ruili’, where his social and economic influence developed into political influence over time. According to Uretsky, Dong’s business began in trading timber with Kachin people in Myanmar and then diversified to gems, before growing into the diversified business group that Jingcheng is today. Over time he became increasingly integrated into local financial and political networks:
Dong Lecheng is married to a Han woman whose father is a high-level official in one of China’s major banks. This gave him access to capital as well as influence with the local government. His private business venture maintains close alliance with the governments of Dehong and Ruili, often drawing on government capital to fund new ventures. These partnerships increase Dong’s local political leverage and also help to develop Dehong economically. (Uretsky 2016, p. 9)
In April 2022, the Beijing Youth Dailyreported in the now-deleted article mentioned above that Dong Lecheng was involved in a company established in an economic zone in Myanmar, across the border from Yunnan, which hosted gambling operations and hotels. Set up with a group of people from Hong Kong, the operation was described as the ‘nation’s largest online gambling case’, providing online and telephone gambling services to people in China (returned to below). Beijing Youth Daily reported that he has been the subject of two criminal cases in China. In 2007, he was convicted of running an illegal gaming hall in the Jingcheng Hotel. Despite being a shareholder and principal actor in the operation, Dong received a one-year prison sentence suspended for two years due to his repentance and good behaviour. According to iFeng, this resulted in him losing his positions as member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and representative of the National People’s Congress.
In the midst of a 2014 anti-corruption campaign in Yunnan, Dong was investigated by the Kunming City Procuratorate for allegedly paying bribes to officials in Ruili City, Yunnan, between 1999 and 2010. However, he soon re-emerged into the public eye, while several officials he was accused of paying bribes received lengthy prison sentences. A review of court documents reveals that Dong Lecheng has been implicated in multiple court cases:
February 2015: Yang Yueguo Corruption Case [pdf]
Yang received bribes from over a dozen businesses in exchange for contracts and other favours. Dong paid a total of 2.4 million RMB and US$600,000 in bribes in 2008. Yang returned approximately two thirds of these funds and was sentenced to life in prison.
August 2015: Criminal Trial of Li and Four Other Defendants for Establishing Illegal Casinos [pdf]
A court in Heilongjiang found a man named Li and three others guilty of involvement in operating illegal casinos in northern Myanmar. The defendants worked for various casinos in the Maijayang Special Economic Zone. According to the judgement, an unnamed man ‘originally from Dianbai County, Guangdong Province, now a national of Cambodia’ acquired rights to develop and operate the zone in 2002. Although he is not named in the judgement, this description fits Wang Yong, who appears in our profiles on Yongyuan Casino and Bavet Moc Bai Casino. The judgement states that the unnamed Cambodian citizen, Dong Lecheng, and Hong Konger Tan Guangtou (谭光头) established the Maida Oriental Company (迈达东方公司) in 2006. Operating until 2009, the company rented out and managed gambling halls. The defendants in this trial were from Dehong Prefecture, Yunnan Province (Dong Lecheng’s hometown) and Dianbai County, Maoming City, Guangdong Province (Wang Yong’s hometown). Although Dong is mentioned in the judgement, he was not on trial. More details on the Maijayang Special Economic Zone are included in our Yongyuan Casino and Bavet Moc Bai Casino profiles.
February 2016: Meng Biguang Corruption Case [pdf]
During his period as Governor and Municipal Party Secretary of Dehong Autonomous Prefecture from 2009 to 2013, Meng received 6.97 million RMB in bribes from eight people including Dong Lecheng. The case details over 600,000 RMB in bribes and favours paid by Dong to Meng, for which Meng provided Dong with construction contracts in return. Meng was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Hong Kong media iFeng reported that Dong built a close relationship with Meng, and when Yunnan Jingcheng Road and Bridge Construction Engineering Co., Ltd. bid for construction of part of a highway in Dehong Prefecture, Meng Biguang instructed the director of the Transportation Bureau to select Dong’s company.
May 2016: Yin Ninghua Corruption Case [pdf]
Yin held numerous positions in Dehong Prefecture and Ruili City, including the Chair of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Representative of the People’s Congress and Chairman of Ruili Finance Bureau. Yin received upwards of 600,000 RMB from Dong’s Yunnan Jingcheng company. This was in exchange for tens of millions of RMB in tax benefits and subsidies. Yin was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
May 2018: Criminal Case against Liu Xinguang [pdf]
Liu was a member of the Dehong CPPCC before his retirement in 2017. From 2002 to 2014 he held positions in Yingjiang county and Dehong Autonomous Prefecture, during which time he received over 5 million RMB from Dong Lecheng and bought a house from one of Dong’s real estate programmes with a price significantly lower than the market price (Liu benefited by at least 550,000 RMB). In return, Liu helped Jingcheng Company to get a loan of 4.3 billion RMB from State Treasury Funds (国库资金). Liu was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
This case also featured in iFeng reporting, which found that Dong paid bribes to Liu while he was director of the Dehong Prefecture Finance Bureau and director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission. According to iFeng’s reporting on the Yunnan Provincial People’s Court judgement, in May 2010, Dong asked his secretary to withdraw 3 million yuan from a company bank account, put it in a large suitcase, and drove from Ruili to Kunming to have dinner with Liu. Dong then asked the secretary to put the suitcase into Liu Xinguang’s car. From 2010 to 2014, Dong gave cash and red envelopes during festivals and secretly paid more than 5 million yuan to Liu Xinguang in order to secure contracts for government projects.
May 2018: Peng Qiming Corruption Case [pdf]
Peng was the former Deputy Director of the Ruili Branch of the Fudian Bank. Peng received bribes in the amount of 1,544,580 RMB from Dong in exchange for providing ‘loan coordination’ to Jingcheng Company. Peng was sentenced to six years in prison.
September 2018: Duan Peixiang Corruption Case [pdf]
In his capacity as Deputy Director of the Management Committee of the Ruili Cross Border Economic Cooperation Zone from 2005 to 2016, Duan received 20,000 RMB from Dong. Duan was sentenced to three years in prison.
It is notable that despite being implicated in multiple criminal investigations and court cases, Dong has largely avoided censure. Although engaging in dubious business operations, such as cross-border casinos in Myanmar that have catered to Chinese clients, he has still been able to maintain a good working relationship with the state as his influence and authority in the border areas has currency on both sides of the border.
More recently, Dong Lecheng appears to have fallen on hard times. In December 2022, the Hong Kong-based iFeng news outlet published a story on Dong Lecheng, detailing the financial difficulties his companies are currently facing. According to the report he has rarely been seen publicly in China since 2020 and did not attend his father’s funeral in 2021. Numerous real estate, construction and tourism projects have gone unfinished, and according to iFeng, since 2019, employees at several of Dong’s companies in China have not been paid on time, leading many to resign, and contractors have been left chasing payment. iFeng also found that Dong Lecheng has sold assets in Cambodia, including the building where Ruili Bank’s headquarters was located and property in the ‘notorious fraud park’ Jinshui (as discussed above).
Contracting for Chinatown Buildings
As is the case with the Kaibo complex (profiled here), Yunnan Construction and Investment Holding Group (YCIH, 云南省建设投资控股集团有限公司) has been contracted to conduct construction work on Jingcheng buildings. The Haigang hotel and casino building at the centre of the complex was built by the YCIH subsidiary China National Nonferrous Metal Industry Fourteenth Metallurgical Construction Co., Ltd. (中国有色金属工业第十四冶金建设公司). The project faced difficulties and delays in construction, and company officials from Fourteenth Metallurgical headquarters visited the project numerous times for inspections during the construction between 2017 and 2019 (see, for instance, here, here, here, and here). This included visits by the YCIH Party Chief and Chairman, Chen Wenshan (陈文山). Incidentally, Chen came under investigation in Yunnan in April 2022 for serious violations of law and discipline, a common euphemism in China for corruption.
During a visit to the area by the authors in June 2022, the YCIH logo could also be seen on an active construction site directly opposite the Jinshui phase 1 compound. A YCIH subsidiary also built JC International Airlines headquarters in Phnom Penh. As noted in the Kaibo profile here, YCIH has been contracted to build a hotel in Phnom Penh for KBX Investment, one of the companies linked to the notorious Kaibo compound.
Subsidiaries of other major Chinese state-owned enterprises have provided contracting services to Jingcheng. In 2019, Sinohydro Bureau 10 and Sinohydro Bureau 14 (subsidiaries of PowerChina) were contracted for the construction of two 20-story apartments in Jinshui phase 2. The same year, Shanghai Baoye (a subsidiary of Metallurgical Corporation of China, MCC) won the bid for general contracting work on phase 2. The previous year, another MCC subsidiary, China No. 1 Metallurgical Group, signed a general contract for the construction of commercial and residential buildings ‘No. 1 to No. 5 of the Haoli Hotel’ (Haoli is the Chinese name for Golden Sun Sky).
Photos of the Jinshui construction site posted on Facebook in 2018 show banners displayed on the building from 15 different companies offering congratulations on the topping off of Jinshui phase 1. Most of these companies are in the business of building materials, construction and engineering. These included:
According to reports on Jingcheng’s website, it has cooperated with AVIC Leasing (中航租赁) and AVIC Steel Trading Co., Ltd. (中航钢贸公司). These companies are subsidiaries of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (中国航空工业集团公司), a Chinese state-owned aerospace and defence conglomerate, which has diversified into a range of industries. In 2018, Yunnan Construction and Investment Holding Group, AVIC and Jingcheng Group met in Cambodia to discuss the JC Airlines office building and the Haoli (Golden Sun Sky) projects, and an agreement was made for AVIC to supply building materials. A news update from the Anhui Province state-owned enterprise Conch Cement (安徽海螺水泥股份有限公司) from 2020, stated that it ‘successfully obtained projects such as “Jinshui Garden” in Cambodia’. In this case Conch presumably provided cement for construction.
Links to Other Compounds, Companies, and Individuals
Jinshui sits adjacent to Kaibo (see profile here), a notorious scam compound. There are rumours that Dong Lecheng is the ultimate owner of the Chinatown development (including Kaibo and Jinshui), although this cannot be verified. In recent years, Dong Lecheng has had numerous interactions with Kok An and his late son-in-law Rithy Samnang, both of whom are linked to Kaibo.
Kok An and Rithy Samnang, until his death, operate casinos under the Crown brand, which is linked to operations in Sihanoukville, Poipet, Kandal and Bavet. They are also linked to the Crown Hi-Tech Industrial Park which reports have linked to scam operations (profiled here).
Yunnan Construction and Investment Holding Group has been contracted for construction work on both Kaibo (see profile here) and Jingchang projects.
The brother of Rithy Samnang, Rithy Raksmei, purchased two buildings within the Jingcheng development zone and they now carry the logo of K99 Group, another company linked to scam compounds (see profile here). Dong Lecheng and Rithy Raksmei have appeared in public together on numerous occasions.
Rithy Raksmei has business links with Myanmar national Aik Paung, who is involved in Nanhai, another building known to house scam operations (profiled here).
Dong Lecheng has been associated with Wang Yong. The two collaborated on casino projects in northern Myanmar that ran illegal gambling operations. He has been photographed in Cambodia with Wang Yong, who owns Yongyuan Casino (profile here) and Bavet Moc Bai Casino (profile here).
30 January 2023: Information on court cases updated. Links to Wang Yong added. Verdict from Alvin Chau criminal trial added. Reporting by iFeng added.
19 September: Huang, Yan 黄岩. ‘独家重磅！西港中国城凯博金水全部对外开放 [Exclusive! Sihanoukville Chinatown Kaibo and Jinshui Are Fully Open to the Public].’ 今日柬闻 [Cambodia News Today]. Link.
Chinese reporter gains access to the Kaibo and Jinshui compounds after the worker exodus and observes an ‘abandoned town’.
19 September: Mech, Dara. ‘Eerie Silence Descends on Notorious Sihanoukville Scam Compounds.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.
Round up of a series of raids that occurred in Sihanoukville the preceding five days, and the clear out of Kaibo and Jinshui compounds.
18 September: Huang, Yan 黄岩. ‘西港最大园区被查？数百人连夜大转移 [Was the Largest Park in Sihanoukville Investigated? Hundreds of People Moved Overnight].’ 今日柬闻 [Cambodia News Today]. Link.
Initial report on the raid tip off and evacuation of the Chinatown compounds.
23 August: Yunnan Jingcheng Co., Ltd. ‘Yunnan Jingcheng Group Co., Ltd Strongly Deny Charges of “Human Trafficking, Fraud, Cyber Fraud”].’ Khmer Times. Link.
Yunnan Jingcheng and businessman Dong Lecheng issue strongly worded statement denying claims made by Al Jazeera, Net Ease, and other media outlets that it is involved in ‘human trafficking, fraud, cyber fraud’.
18 August: ‘柬埔寨詐騙｜曾在中國捲入賭博詐騙案 轉投西港成黑金勢力三巨頭 [Cambodian Fraud: Once Involved in Gambling Fraud in China, He Took Refuge in Sihanoukville and Became One of the Top Three Black Gold Tycoons].’ Hong Kong 101. Link.
Profile of three Chinese tycoons with criminal records who took Cambodian citizenship, and because of their close relationships with Cambodian government and business, have prospered through online crime. Focuses on Xu Aimin, Dong Lecheng, and She Zhijiang.
11 August: 101 East. ‘Forced to Scam: Cambodia’s Cyber Slaves.’ Al Jazeera. Link.
Longform article focusing on the victims highlighted in below documentary. Includes a man sold to Jinshui.
14 July: 101 East. ‘Forced to Scam: Cambodia’s Cyber Slaves’. Al Jazeera. Link.
Documentary on some of the main scam compounds located in Sihanoukville and Pursat. Includes testimony from a person who claims he was sold four times between companies operating in Jinshui.
12 May: GASO. ‘拯救柬埔寨線上詐騙招聘受害者 [Rescue victims of online scam recruitment in Cambodia].’ Global Anti-Scam Organization website. Link.
Report on rescue of 16 Malaysians rescued in April 2022 (reported by Channel News Asia). Documentation from victims shows they were held at Jinshui.
10 April: Bernama. ‘16 Malaysians Duped by Fake Job Offers in Cambodia Rescued.’ Channel News Asia. Link.
16 Malaysians aged between 19 and 43 rescued in joint operation after being duped into scam compound in Cambodia.
1 April: Li, Yiming 李一鸣. ‘难以逃离的柬埔寨西港“中国城” ：被绑架被倒卖，被威胁“沉尸海底”….. [The “China Town” in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, That is Difficult to Escape: Kidnapped, Resold, Threatened to “Sink the corpse to the Bottom of the Sea” …].’ 北京青年报 [Beijing Youth Daily]. Link.
Newspaper of Beijing’s Communist Youth League reports on the situation in Chinatown, Sihanoukville, documenting the testimony of people held in the Kaibo and Jinshui compounds. Includes discussion of Dong Lecheng’s past legal issues in China. (Note: Article was removed from the internet around August 2022 but at the time of writing remains available on some websites not based in China.)
11 March: Mech, Dara and Danielle Keeton-Olsen. ‘Crimes in Shadows: Sihanoukville’s Grisly Reports, Pressure on Journalists.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.
Review of crime reports from past two years include six cases of bodies found in public locations or washed up on the beach, 19 homicides, assaults, and firearms cases, 11 cases of extortion and detention, along with other serious crimes. Includes serious crimes in Chinatown area.
18 February: Mech, Dara, Cindy Liu, and Danielle Keeton-Olsen. ‘Victims Allege Sihanoukville Precincts With Ties to Major Businesses Are Sites of Scams, Torture, Detention.’ Voice of Democracy. Link.
Reports on cases of forced labour and human trafficking connected to scam compounds in Sihanoukville, including those located in Chinatown.
18 February: Nop Meechukhun. ‘Group of 32 Thai Nationals Rescued by Cambodian Authorities after Reportedly Unlawfully Being Detained in Rooms While Being Smuggled for Work in Cambodia.’ The Pattaya News. Link.
32 Thai nationals rescued from Chinatown by Cambodian military and police, after reportedly being smuggled into the country and held in a compound.
17 February: Gu, Yuebing 顾月冰. ‘逃离柬埔寨“网赌之城”[Escape from Cambodia’s “City of Online Casinos”].’ 南方周末 [Southern Weekly]. Link.
Chinese media reports on the scale of online scams operating from Sihanoukville and the conditions in which people are forced to work. Names several compounds as sites for online scam companies, including ‘Jinshui Chinatown’.
21 October: Kong, Arey. ‘Saved from “hell”: 41 Foreigners Freed from Clutches of China Project Ring.’ Khmer Times. Link.
41 Indonesian nationals rescued from Jinshui by Cambodian police after request from Indonesian Embassy.
26 September: Haider, Husain. ‘Sihanoukville’s Dirty Secret: Dark Rumours and Inside Information Raise Questions about The China Project.’ Khmer Times. Link.
Investigation by Khmer Times finds that at its peak, a “10-building complex” in the Chinatown area held some 12,000 people, mostly Chinse, but also other nationalities. The compound is sealed and people are not permitted to leave. The article refers to the complex as “The China Project”, but it fits the description of the Jinshui compound.
10 September: Haider, Husain. ‘Bloody but Unbowed: The China Project Ploughs on Despite Public Scrutiny of Highly Disturbing Claims of Criminality.’ Khmer Times. Link.
Following its reports on Chinatown, Khmer Times received information from multiple sources who reported experiences working for companies at Jinshui, with people claiming to have been taken hostage, beaten, starved, isolated, extorted, sexually abused, and trafficked.
25 August: Haider, Husain. ‘Dark Allegations: Sinister Claims Made about “The China Project” in Sihanoukville.’ Khmer Times. Link.
Report on Chinatown area (erroneously called The China Project in article). Reports four Filipinos who previously worked at a ‘10-building complex’ (presumably Jinshui), and had their passports taken and were trained to scam people online.
26 July: ‘Facebook Jobs Scam: Some Released, Others Still Held in Sihanoukville.’ Cambodia News English. Link.
Following media reports on Filipino woman held against her will in Chinatown area, several people released. One of the released told media that others remain inside, including several African women.
26 July: ‘Foreign Women Illegally Detained After Answering Facebook Job Ads.’ Cambodia News English. Link.
English reporting of Philippines national held against her will in Chinatown complex after responding to a Facebook job recruitment ad.
26 July: Soy, Sopheap. ‘ករណីជួញដូរមនុស្ស នៅខេត្តព្រះសីហនុ ទៅរកការងារ បែរជាត្រូវបង្ខាំងមនុស្សទុក បង្អត់បាយ ដកលិខិតឆ្លងដែន និងទូរស័ព្ទ’ [Human Trafficking Case in Sihanoukville to Work, People Were Detained, Deprived of Food, Confiscated Passports and Telephones]. DAP News. Link.
Khmer language media reports husband of Philippines national reported his wife being held against her will in Chinatown complex after responding to a Facebook job recruitment ad.