This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
Philippine police killed two suspected Chinese nationals with alleged links to a kidnap gang targeting citizens from China in the Philippines during a shootout in northern Pampanga province on Thursday, officials said.
The two men were allegedly involved in the recent abduction of three Chinese nationals, who thought they were coming to the country to work for an online casino, authorities said.
The Philippines in recent years has been dealing with kidnappings of Chinese nationals working in the country, particularly in the gaming industry, and at least one case of a Chinese kidnap-for-ransom gang preying on gamblers at local casinos.
The pair slain in Thursday’s shootout were believed to be accomplices of suspects Yang Jun and Wu Zen Han, who were arrested days after the three latest Chinese kidnap victims were rescued by police, authorities said.
Officials did not release details, but the state-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported that the other suspects were arrested June 6 and the kidnap victims had been rescued on June 1.
“[The kidnapping victims] were hired to work for a Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator but there was deceit. They were not given the jobs as casino dealers as promised,” Maj. Ronaldo Lumactod, a spokesman for the national police’s anti-kidnapping group said. He added that an undetermined ransom was demanded from the victims’ families in China.
A police report of the incident said the dead men, who were not named but were believed to be of Chinese descent, “were alleged conspirators” of members of a Chinese gang whose members were arrested previously.
Police approached a white van near the Forest Park in Angeles City, northern Pampanga province, believed to have been used as a getaway vehicle during the rescue when the suspects began shooting, leading officers to return fire, Lumactod and PNA said.
A police officer, Capt. Mike Diaz, was injured in the operation, Lumactod said. Officers recovered two pistols and an M4 automatic rifle from the dead men.
The June 1 rescue occurred just days after the May 29 mass arrests of Chinese nationals at a budget motel south of the capital, who were suspected of operating an illegal online casino in Metro Manila.
The national police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) carried out the raid and arrested as many as 90 Chinese nationals based on a report about foreign-looking men who were frequently seen loitering near the motel.
The foreigners were spotted “without proper garments and facemasks” and not observing social distancing and other health protocols, the CIDG said in the statement. It said the raid took place after detectives were dispatched to the area to verify the report.
Authorities seized more than 50 laptop computers, more than 100 cellphones and about 5.3 million pesos (U.S. $105,000) in cash, CIDG officials said.
Last year, the national police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group said that about five dozen Chinese were abducted in the country. Most of the kidnappings were carried out by a Chinese crime group preying on the huge population of undocumented Chinese workers in the Philippines.
Based on records from the Philippine Bureau of Immigration and Department of Labor and Employment, nearly 200,000 Chinese nationals work in the country – most of whom do not have work permits and are employed by online casinos, which cater to Chinese nationals but are prohibited in China.