Last week, a murder in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh shocked the community of Chinese tech executives in the region.

One of the two victims was Xiao Bo, an 38-year old ex-Tencent executive who used to be in charge of an ads business. He later fled China, likely because of some corruption allegations, and ended up in Cambodia.

In Cambodia he joined the management of a company, but somehow fell out with the management.  He felt the danger on his life, and had tried to get some third party to mediate.

That did not work out before the assassins came to his apartment block, and murdered him and his new girlfriend, who was also from China.

The Chinese Embassy said they were communicating with Cambodian Police, who had identified the suspects. It is alleged that the murderers were also Chinese nationals. They moved into the heavily guarded residence and took up an apartment inside half a month before the murder – which was well planned.

Illicit or grey businesses venturing overseas 

Regulations in China have become stricter, making many internet-based businesses, such as online gambling, cash lending, edgy live streaming, crypto, and associated payment processing, consumer traffic generation etc., very difficult or impossible to operate in China. Many have chosen to move to countries where both regulations and enforcement lax – including Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal, Laos, and for a certain period of time, the Philippines.

The government of China has been cracking down such illicit activities. Notably in early 2020 it revoked passports, household registrations, children’s school registration and elderly parents’ pension of all those suspected of involvement in the Philippine-based online gambling, unless they return to China to surrender to the authorities.

The dark and the darker

This is not the first time such gruesome events happened to the community of Chinese tech executives working in grey areas.

Almost exactly a month ago, in mid-December, another Chinese national in “network security” was murdered in Phnom Penh. Some of our friends know the guy personally and told us that he was involved in online gambling trade as well.

A few other kidnapping, ransom and murder cases happened in 2020 too – though they usually do not get the attention of any international media.

Advice to friends who receive generous offers to work in ‘tech’ firms in these countries, think thrice!

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at hello@mworks.asia.