Chen Baorong, a Chinese businessperson who was at the forefront to rescue hundreds of workers from online scam operations in Cambodia, was released from Preah Sihanouk prison on Monday.
Chen’s wife, Neang Srey Leak, 38, confirmed his release on Monday afternoon.
“I am happy that he is released. He returns to reunite with the family. I am delighted and excited to see my husband coming back,” she said.
When asked if her husband had received justice, Srey Leak said she did not know. But she emphasized that her life had been difficult while he was in prison for 10 months.
“He has worked so hard to find money to support family … [so] our lives have been difficult without him. I am too excited and I can hardly speak and don’t know where my thoughts are.”
Chen, who has been a businessperson in Cambodia for more than 20 years, ran a volunteer group that helped Chinese nationals who were trafficked and made to work under horrendous conditions at scam operations. Scam workers have talked about abuse, torture and forced labor conditions at the compounds, which were mostly located in Sihanoukville.
Chen and a few volunteers were some of the only people responding to pleas for help on Chinese social media channels and Facebook.
He was arrested in Phnom Penh in February and transferred to Preah Sihanouk, after he spoke out about the “blood slave” case, where a Chinese national claimed his blood was harvested to repay alleged debts to a scam employer. The victim later retracted the story, was given a suspended three-month prison sentence and has since been deported.
Chen and his assistant, Chen Xiaohua, and a Sihanoukville doctor, Tan Xiaomei, were convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. The Preah Sihanouk Appeal Court in December decided to suspend part of the prison sentence and ruled they would only serve 10 months in prison.
They were charged in March with incitement to discriminate, false declaration, unlawful interference in the discharge of public functions and unlawful use of certificate of profession; the doctor was charged as an instigator of incitement and false declaration.
Chen, the assistant, and Tan were also released Monday, according to Chinese-language media.
After the “blood slave” case made international headlines, the Cambodian government requested Chinese officials to shut down rumors and help Cambodia repair its image internationally.