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China Blasts AUKUS; Taiwan's Significance to the U.S. and China; U.S. Federal Reserve to Discuss Interest Rates Next Week; Cyclone Freddy Kills at Least 200; China to Fully Reopen to Tourists; Investors Watchful after Two Bank Collapses; Turkiye Prepares for Next Big Earthquake; Cyber Scam Traffickers Targeting Professionals across Asia. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired March 14, 2023 - 10:00   ET




BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): I'm Becky Anderson. Live from Abu Dhabi for you. This is CONNECT THE WORLD.

Coming up this hour. The U.S., U.K. and Australia agree to a major military deal to counter the rise of China in the Pacific.

The fallout from the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank continues.

The first war crimes charges expected against Russian officials over the war in Ukraine.

Plus a dramatic jump in the death toll in Malawi from Cyclone Freddy.


ANDERSON: "Going down a wrong and dangerous road," that is how China's foreign ministry is reacting today to a hugely impactful submarine deal

announced at the meeting of AUKUS leaders as they are known in California.

Australia buying U.S. nuclear powered submarines and will eventually build its own using American technology and British design. Leaders of the U.S.,

Australia and Britain say that they are acting to counter China's growing influence in the Pacific region.

Will Ripley from Taipei, just explain the importance of the deal.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Becky, China may have the world's largest navy. But when it comes to underwater power that

these U.S. produced nuclear submarines provide, China is decades behind. They just don't have the capability.

And so now to be able to rotate these submarines in the short term to Australia and in the long term, actually equip Australia with the

technology to produce nuclear powered submarines, it does really present a huge challenge to Beijing's attempts at naval supremacy in this part of the


And from the U.S. perspective they certainly hope that this kind of thing will also prevent any potential Chinese attempts or plans to make a move on



RIPLEY (voice-over): Chinese fighter jets screaming over its skies, military ships sailing off its coast, daily occurrences for Taiwan, living

under the constant threat of a possible Chinese attack.

Beijing's communist leadership claims Taiwan as part of its territory despite having never ruled it tensions rising across the Taiwan Strait

since Nancy Pelosi is visit in August, the first visit by a U.S. House Speaker to the island in 25 years.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Who can forget China's response last year those days of large scale military drills encircling the island firing ballistic

missiles over Taiwan?

Analysts fear this may be repeated again next month. Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen expected to meet U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

RIPLEY: So in saying that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense attack?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Yes, we have a commitment to do that.

RIPLEY (voice-over): But the U.S. has reasons to worry about a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, protecting valuable semiconductor chips. Taiwan is a

global leader in semiconductors tiny chips that power everything from computers to cars, the island producing 70 percent of global supply.

Defending democracy, losing democratic Taiwan to Communist China would shattered us credibility in the Indo Pacific region, protecting U.S.

alliances, Asian countries would face an even more powerful China. A heavily shriveled police state with little freedom of speech, the stakes

are indeed high but experts do believe there's reason for optimism.

RIPLEY: Do you think the U.S. and China are headed in a positive optimistic direction?

LEV NACHMAN, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, NATIONAL CHENGCHI UNIVERSITY: The idea that conflict between the U.S. and China is inevitable. I strongly disagree

with that meaningful channels of communication between the U.S. and the PRC that helps us minimize unknowns it helps us minimize confusion and


And ultimately, that that's good for Taiwan.

RIPLEY (voice-over): U.S.-China relations on a downward spiral since that suspected Chinese spy balloon bursting months at Beijing-D.C. diplomacy.


RIPLEY: As two Democratic allies, the U.S. and Taiwan get even closer. Taiwan's President and the third in line to the U.S. presidency meeting on

American soil. As tensions escalate, all eyes will be on China. And where is this all headed?


RIPLEY: And right now, Becky, months after President Biden and president Xi met in Bali, there is still no established diplomatic line of

communication. Those plans have ground to a halt when the U.S. shot down that spy balloon.

And then you have the U.S. announcing it will expand its military presence in the Philippines, encouraging Japan to expand its own military activities

after seven decades of pacifism.

On the Chinese side, they're now moving into the Middle East diplomatic realm with this deal, brokering this deal attempt between Iran and Saudi

Arabia as you know. So both of these powers are really trying to set the stage and build alliances.

But the question, the big unanswered question, is this all deterrence or is this building up to something more?

And if so, where would the flashpoint be and when?

ANDERSON: Will Ripley, is in Taiwan thank you.

Reverberations still ripping through global markets caused by the dramatic collapse of two U.S. banks in as many days, Silicon Valley Bank and

Signature Bank. Right now investors say at least in the U.S., are focusing on the latest inflation report and what that could mean for U.S. interest


Key to all of these financial markets, of course, the Fed's next move on rates. Before Wall Street started trading today, the Asian markets have

been significantly lower. Reversal of fortunes there for these U.S. markets, the S&P higher as is the Dow and the Nasdaq today. CNN's Christine

Romans is with us from New York.

This inflation data as far as investors are concerned, telling us what exactly?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's no big surprise you've got consumer inflation, three times hotter than the Fed

would be comfortable with, 2 percent and never came in at 6 percent.

But it could've been worse here. And there were some concerns last month that inflation was heating up. But it appears at least, this latest

reading, that it is peaking and a big share of that inflation is shelter inflation; gas prices are down year over year and food prices are cooling.

So essentially I think decade the bottom line is that it gives the Feds some space to be a little more cautious about raising interest rates when

it next meets on March 22nd.

And cautious why?

Because we have a banking sector that has shown signs of weakness, of strain. Three banks over the past week have folded and two of them were

crypto focus lenders, one of them was the big Silicon Valley Bank that really was the oxygen for start-ups and venture capital.

The U.S. government coming with a historic rescue of depositors, allowing two of those banks to fail, getting rid of the management and the

shareholders will get nothing. But the depositors made whole to keep the economy, that part of the economy, still moving.

So a really remarkable set of events. And as you can see on the screen there, some of the banks that were down dramatically yesterday are up a bit

this morning, bouncing from their lows, showing some stability in those regional banks that got hammered so much.

ANDERSON: Yes. Some of these banks are actually up significantly but they really took a -- they took a wash in yesterday's trade.

Are we suggesting that this contagion, this potential banking crisis is averted for good or averted at least for now?

ROMANS: It looks as though the Federal Reserve and Treasury backstop of depositors worked. Those folks have been made whole, they are able to pay

their payroll, they won't have to close their doors and that was important for stopping the fear.

And we know, that we can see some of the outflows from a senior Treasury official, the deposit outflows from those regional banks that was a concern

are starting to slow. That is also good news.

So everything working in the right direction, here. Essentially from top to bottom, experts say the banking system in the U.S. is stronger today than

it was in 2008. But the Fed is raising rates so quickly there are bound to be choke points or pressure points.

And we're starting to see where those are. But the hope is that there is no contagion; those are just individual bankruptcies.

ANDERSON: Not much you can do for bad investment decisions. That is ultimately the responsibility of the management of these banks. But good to

have you on and we'll keep an eye on these markets. Yes, absolutely.


ANDERSON: Dow Jones up 1 percent as we speak.

Facebook's parent company, Meta, planning to lay off another 10,000 employees. This will mark the second round of significant job cuts for Meta

in the last four months. The CEO said that the company needs to improve its efficiency.

Let's move you on. And after months of investigations and gathering evidence, prosecutors from the International Criminal Court are reportedly

ready to charge several Russians with war crimes.

Both "The New York Times" and Reuters News Agency say multiple Russians will be charged with abducting Ukrainian children and targeting civilian

infrastructure. It is unclear who will be named in the indictment but Ukraine has been pushing for Vladimir himself to be charged. Let's get the

latest on the ground and CNN's Ivan Watson. Ivan.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, yes, I'm in Eastern Ukraine where you may be able to hear the sound of a siren, an

air raid siren signifying the end of a potential threat.

This morning there was a loud thud in this part of the country, an explosion, a blast is what the Ukrainian police are now calling a Russian

Kh-58 cruise missile that slammed into the eastern city of Kramatorsk, a city that has been the target of repeated long-range Russian missiles and


And in this case it slammed into the side of a three or four story apartment building, killing at least one person and wounding at least three

more. The damage there, it shattered gas in the neighboring apartment blocks, in the courtyard there; shattered glass in a kindergarten, number

49, which was also in the same kind of square.

Fortunately there were no children there, Becky, because the school director told me that children have not been going to that kindergarten for

some six months, they've all been evacuated.

I think part of what was so striking, witnessing how locals were dealing with the destruction in the aftermath was very stoically. There were no

tears, there were no complaints. These were people whose apartments were potentially destroyed.

Senior citizens were sweeping up shattered glass, sweeping up debris, perhaps taking away belongings if that home was no longer livable at this

point and simply getting on with, it recognizing that this is one of the realities of life in this part of Eastern Ukraine.

The chef, Jose Andres, charity organization, World Central Kitchen, was on the scene within hours, distributing assistance. People who I spoke who had

been knocked out of their beds, knocked on the ground were walking to collect their pensions, for example, one woman told, me are shaken, of


But recognize that this is part of living this close to the front lines, that the city is about 25 kilometers away, about 15 miles away. And it has

been a target before. It presumably will be a target again.

And as one woman told me, she believes in the strength of the Ukrainian military which is present all throughout this part of Eastern Ukraine in

very large numbers. It is a militarized region with large numbers of civilians still living here despite the massive displacement since Russia

launched its invasion a bit more than a year ago -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Yes, it is absolutely remarkable isn't it, Ivan thank you.

And we do want to highlight something special connected to the war in Ukraine. It is a photo essay containing the stories of Ukraine's elderly

women, who could've fled when the Russian invasion began but who are vowing to never leave the land that they love. That is and you can check

that out there.

Cyclone Freddy has killed at least 200 people across Malawi and Mozambique. Most of the deaths were reported in some of Malawi's worst affected area.

The unrelenting storm caused this waterspout as it lashed southern Africa down into Monday.

In Mozambique, officials said at least 10 people have died and more than 22,000 are displaced. Let's bring in Larry Madowo, who's joining us from

Nairobi, Kenya.

And you are monitoring the situation in both of those countries.

What is the very latest as we understand it?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Authorities in Malawi say, Becky, that this storm appears to be weakening. But the risk of torrential rains and

damaging winds is still possible into tomorrow. So the worst is not behind them yet.


MADOWO: Even though tropical Cyclone Freddy has already made landfall twice in southern Africa, in Mozambique and then northward into southern

Malawi and so far 190 people dead in Malawi alone and 10 people at least in Mozambique.

There are some casualties as well in Madagascar, which is also part of this region. It has become one of the longest tropical cyclones on record. And

one organization is waiting for it to dissipate until they can declare it for sure.

But it already has had so much energy, more than the typical, North Atlantic, hurricane season in just the past couple of weeks that this has

been circulating around southern Africa.

It has damaged buildings, infrastructure such as roads and electricity is out. In 10 southern districts in Malawi, schools are completely closed

because, in most cases, they just can't get to them. They are underwater.

There are people who remain trapped in schools and homes and some remain unaccounted for and missing in different parts of Malawi. At least one

hospital is overwhelmed. The health minister there says that they are on the verge of getting completely overwhelmed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We then noticed (ph) and managing the situation because we are receiving patients, seems like every five minutes. We are

almost overwhelmed. In fact we are very fortunate that we had the rate of business (ph) last year due to COVID. But now we are attempting to advocate

for this process week as be following as (ph).


MADOWO: What is seen?

Those tents were set up for COVID. And now they're addressing the victims of Cyclone Freddy. And Malawi has already been suffering its worst cholera

outbreak ever. More than 1,000 (INAUDIBLE) people have died. This is going to exacerbate that situation.

And when the full economy is done, when everybody has been reached, the very likely possibility is the fact that death toll will be much higher

Becky, than the 190 right now.

ANDERSON: Unfortunately. Larry, thank. You

You're watching the CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Coming up, still a taboo subject in India. Meet one couple fighting to legalize same-

sex marriage. More on the milestone case before India's supreme court. That is after this.




ANDERSON: Some of the stories that are on our radar right now.

And protesters in Jerusalem blocked the world to Prime Minister Netanyahu's office after Israel's parliament moves closer to passing what is a very

controversial judicial overhaul bill.

In an overnight, vote the Knesset approved the first reading of the bill. It will allow parliament to overturn supreme court rulings by a simple

majority vote.

China has announced that it is fully reopening to tourists after three years of border restrictions due to COVID-19.


ANDERSON: The country is set to resume issuing all categories of visas for foreigners starting on Wednesday.

American airline and defense company Boeing has reached two deals with Saudi Arabia to sell its 787 Dreamliners. The White House says the deal is

valued at nearly $37 billion.

Next month, India's supreme court will begin hearing final arguments to legalize same sex marriage there. It is already facing serious pushback

from the Indian government, which believes the decision should be made by lawmakers.

The court decriminalized same sexuality in 2018. LGBTQ activists are pushing to get more rights for same-sex unions. Vedika Sud talks to one of

the couples who brought their case before India's top court.


VEDIKA SUD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abhay and Supriyo are building a life together in Hyderabad. And like many couples committed to each other

for several years, they have decided to marry.

They say that their ceremony two years ago, though it wasn't legally binding, was almost a dream wedding, except for the many precautions that

they had to take.

SUPRIYO HAKRABORTY, SUPREME COURT PETITIONER: You will not believe that our guest list, I took almost six months to plan our guest list, whom to

call and not to call.

And all the guests are, I would say of 90 percent of guests here inhouse. In order to go, out, the guests should be locked. There was political

protection, there was bouncers. Because we did not want to take any risks.

SUD (voice-over): The couple says that they want to legally marry without fear, with the same rights as heterosexual unions. So they filed a lawsuit

along with several similar petitions went before India's supreme court on Monday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The honorable court was pleased to issue the matter to file judgment for reconsideration. And the matter will next be taken up

on the 18th of April.

SUD (voice-over): There are hopes in India's LGBTQ community that the court will build on the historic 2018 decision that decriminalized

consensual gay sex. And now rule to legalize same sex marriage.

But that case has strong opposition from religious groups and the Indian government, led by prime minister Narendra Modi, who said that it

recognizes many forms of relationships. But legal marriage should be between a man and woman. That is something that couples say need to change.


Like if something happens to me, does he have the right to inherit?

Something happens to him, do I have the right to inherit?

No. So in the eyes of the law, whatever baskets of rights marriage allows, which heterosexual couples completely take for granted, for us, we do not

get those rights.

SUD (voice-over): Many activists say Asian countries are far behind the West in advancing LGBTQ rights. In 2019, Taiwan legalized same-sex

marriage. South Korea hasn't recognize it. But a court recently ruled that same-sex couples could get equal health benefits.

Last year, Japan upheld a ban on same sex marriage but said same-sex families deserve legal protection. So there has been incremental progress

in the region, including in India. Butt many people say it is not nearly enough.

ANJALI GOPALAN, NAZ FOUNDATION TRUST: What happened with the proposal and the judgment is that homosexuality has been decriminalized, which means

that the community is no longer in the same bracket as criminals, which is murderers and thieves and all of that. However, no other rights have been

given to the community.

SUD (voice-over): Those rights are once again under review in India. This couple say they have hope for the future, that their case, before the high

court in the land, will one day give them the basic rights they feel every married couple should have -- Vedika Sud, CNN, New Delhi.


ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson for you. Still to come, the road to recovery in Turkiye and how the country is

working to prepare for any future earthquakes. That is after this. Stay with us.





ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi. The time is just before half past 6:00. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD and wherever you are watching.

You are more than welcome. Here are your headlines this hour.

China says an agreement for Australia to buy U.S. nuclear powered submarines advances a, quote, "Cold War mentality."

Australian, U.S. and British leaders announced the deal known as the AUKUS meeting in California. They said it's meant to counter China's growing

influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Investors still focusing on the global reverberations, caused by the dramatic collapse of two U.S. banks in as many days. Silicon Valley Bank

and Signature Bank. Despite a rush of regulatory, support market observers say questions about the explicit safety of cash deposits will take time to


Emergency officials in Malawi says at least 190 people are dead and dozens missing, after Cyclone Freddy slammed into southern Africa. The storm is

weakening but officials say that the threat of heavy flooding remains high. The storm caused extensive damage to roadways and left many without power.

Turkiye's current account deficit hit a new record in January, widening to $9.85 billion. That news comes as the country struggles to recover from

last month's devastating earthquake. Turkiye's death toll now at more than 48,000 and growing.

All this as it prepares to hold elections in just a couple of months. Nada Bashir joining me from Istanbul.

On what Turkiye is facing, a month, out of course, from crucial elections, sorry; two months out from crucial elections May 14th?

NADA BASHIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, look, this is a country that is already going through a deepening financial crisis. And that is really

being felt across the country and here in Istanbul. That will certainly be an issue at the top of voters' minds when it comes to an election on May

the 14th.

And that is, of course, in the wake of the earthquake where we have seen real concern growing as well around the government's role in allegations of

corruption, of negligence within the country's construction industry.

Now in terms of the economic crisis, that is being felt particularly hard by renters across the country, including here in Istanbul, where there is a

significant amount of panic growing, concern growing around the safety of the city when it comes to a potential earthquake that could target this

industrial and commercial hub.

That is a key concern and it has come to shape one of the key topics being debated around this election season. And we've been speaking to experts in

the city, who have told us that a earthquake, a major earthquake is certainly on the cards for Istanbul. And, of course, that is a huge

concern. And a huge fear for some of the residents here.

Take a look.


BASHIR (voice-over): The sound of concrete, crumbling into rubble: this time, by design. This demolition, part of a grand new generation project.


BASHIR (voice-over): The city of Istanbul preparing for experts warn, the inevitable earthquake. Tens of thousands of homes are currently in the

process of being evaluated for their safety as residents grow increasingly concerned.

"Honestly, I am afraid," Mushtah (ph) tells me. "I think residents would feel more relieved if precautions were taken immediately."

This is one of what officials say is more than 800,000 buildings in Istanbul, built before earthquake regulations were brought into force in

the year 2000. And authorities say that at least half of all buildings assessed so far, have been placed under high risk categories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): According to the damage estimation studies we held, we foresee that approximately 90,000 structures

would be subject to heavy and very heavy damage.

BASHIR: In this vast city of around 60 million people, the threat of the major earthquake looms large. A fault line beneath the sea, just 20

kilometers from the city's closest point, could cause untold damage if it was to break.

BASHIR (voice-over): And while experts predict that the magnitude of such an earthquake could be anywhere between 7.2 and 7.8, there is no telling

when the earthquake might strike.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a major at quake doesn't happen in the next 20 years, we would be really surprised. So it is that close. There is no way

to produce it. The sensible thing is to get prepared for. It

BASHIR (voice-over): But it is not just about ensuring the buildings are able to withstand a major earthquake. But also preparing for what is said

to be an enormous humanitarian response effort with experts estimating the loss of tens of thousands of lives and potentially, millions of residents

left homeless.

It is an immense challenge in this metropolis, particularly when it comes to communities like this one, with many homes here, built without

permissions and without structural guarantees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Those who say that they trust the buildings are just consoling themselves. These buildings here are more

than 30 years old and most of them had levels added to them. I do not think that they are steady buildings.

I wanted to move. But in Turkiye, rent prices are just too high.

BASHIR (voice-over): And with some of Turkiye's most disadvantaged now struggling to even buy bread, many are left with no choice but to continue

living in high-risk buildings.

"Seeing what happened over in the southeast, we became very over afraid over here," she tells me.

"What will happen to our house?

"What will happen to our children?

"What will happen to us?"

BASHIR (voice-over): Questions many Istanbul residents are now asking themselves as concerns mount over how much time is left for this historic

city to prepare for the unimaginable.


BASHIR: And look Becky, five weeks on from the devastating earthquake in the southeast of the country and this is an issue and concern that is high

on people's minds here in Istanbul. We saw the damage caused by that earthquake in the southeast.

According to the World Bank, more than $34 billion worth of damage and recovery, the reconstruction effort is set to cost even more when it comes

to Turkiye's economy.

So, of course, when it comes to Istanbul, a commercial and industrial hub here in Turkiye, there is huge concern for the impact a potential

earthquake in the city could have on Turkiye's economy.

The mayor here has already said that this is not just a concern an issue for Istanbul itself; it is a concern for Turkiye's national security and he

is calling on essential governments now working closely with Turkiye to prepare the city for a potential earthquake.

ANDERSON: And the mayor of Istanbul, of course, very much part of this opposition bloc, challenging the president in these elections May the 14th.

The fear of the unimaginable as your report suggests, about the risk to Istanbul, combined with a struggling economy, a cost of living crisis and

the catastrophe that has been the devastating impact of that earthquake back six weeks ago or so, how big a challenge does the Turkish president

face in winning these upcoming elections at this point?

BASHIR: Becky, this could certainly be the biggest challenge that President Erdogan has faced in his more than two decades in power now. And

there are many analysts suggesting this could indeed be a very close race.

And chief among the concerns for many voters is the economy, the financial struggles that many ordinary people across Turkiye are facing but also, of

course, the earthquake and the impact as well as the government's response to the earthquake --


BASHIR: -- and its efforts to prepare for a catastrophe that, of course, for an area that is so prone to earthquakes should have been very high on

the government's agenda.

Now there is also questions, criticism mounting against President Erdogan, when it comes to allegations of corruption, of negligence within the

construction industry.

We've seen since the 1980s, the government handing out construction amnesties the buildings that were built, without permissions, without

following the necessary safety guidelines put in place by the government.

So that is a huge issue for President Erdogan, that he will have to reckon with. Certainly a key focus for the opposition. And they say that they do

not want to see more construction amnesty being handed out and have been blaming Erdogan and the government for hundreds of thousands of buildings

in Istanbul that are deemed unsafe in the face of a major earthquake.

ANDERSON: Nada, thank you so much. Nada is in Istanbul in Turkiye.

Have a look at this video from Lahore in Pakistan, showing police using tear gas inside and around the residence of the former prime minister,

Imran Khan. They have reportedly taken control of the area and are trying to disperse crowds in order to arrest Imran Khan.

We are continued of following the story and we will bring you more information as it comes in to CNN.

Up next, with 500 days to go until the start of the 2024 Olympics in Paris, CNN talks to the president of the games about security at what is this

massive event. That is coming up after this.




ANDERSON: Reports of online scams surged in the United States last year to the tune of $10 billion in losses. That is according to the FBI. It's a $3

billion jump from 2021 and the highest level in the last five years.

Now complaints range from marketing schemes, to ransomware fishing. People in their 30s filed the most complaints. But people older than 60 reported

the most money lost.

Even young tech savvy professionals falling victim to the cyber scams. Across Asia there is a growing number of people who thought they were

traveling for high paying jobs but instead, get forced to work as cyber criminals.

Kristie Lu Stout takes a look at the growing human trafficking trend that is targeting new, unsuspecting victims of modern day slavery. Take a look

at this.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Maybe you have seen one before, a friendly text from a stranger that could be the beginning of a

cyber scam.

LU XIANGRI, CYBER TRAFFICKING VICTIM (through translator): These cyber fill (ph) companies are doing all kinds of scamming. The first company I

went to was looking for Chinese people. They were tricking them to invest.


STOUT (voice-over): Lu Xiangri worked as a cyber scammer in Cambodia against his will. He was lured to Sianookville (ph) with a promise of a

management job only to be held captive, forced to work as a cyber criminal.

LU (through translator): More than a dozen security guards were out there with guns. We weren't even allowed to step out of the door.

STOUT: We spoke to people from Bangladesh, China and Taiwan, who all say they were trafficked by cyber scam companies and they all share a similar

account. They were lured by a dream job, forced to scam with fake identities and some even sold from company to company.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) are mostly educated because the conduct scan is very different from other kind of a job than just labor.

STOUT (voice-over): According to the International Labor Organization, 50 million people worldwide are now enslaved, up 25 percent from the last

estimate in 2016. Experts say cyber scam traffickers have exploited unemployment from the COVID-19 pandemic to lure tens of thousands of


PATRICIA HO, UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG: Taking advantage of joblessness was one thing. But also taking advantage of the fact that people really wanted

to travel. So the idea that you could travel somewhere for a job project was something that was quite exciting for many.

STOUT (voice-over): China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam have all issued warnings about high salary job offers from Cambodia. Hong Kong

authorities are warning travelers at the airport of scams and have set up a dedicated task force for victims. But many victims are too afraid for to

ask for help.

HO: We have to find ways to encourage them to go to the authorities. Giving them immunity from prosecution isn't -- it's an absolute necessity.

Cambodia has acknowledged that foreign nationals have been trafficked by cyber scammers and carried out high-profile raids. But activists say many

large-scale operations are still running.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is still ongoing. They are (INAUDIBLE) one of trips (ph) kind of showcasing to the international community but it was

nothing compared with the whole scale.

STOUT (voice-over): Lu managed to escape when he contacted local officials. He became a villain rescuer, determined to help others avoid his


STOUT: What is your message to people who think this would never happen to me?

LU (through translator): You can earn $US 20,000 for one person you scam. Many would be willing to do it, even if it means selling their relatives

and friends.

STOUT (voice-over): Lu is one of the lucky ones. Activists say thousands of others remain captive, trapped by a dream job that turned into a

nightmare -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


ANDERSON: This Thursday is My Freedom Day, CNN partnering with young people worldwide for a student-led day of action against modern-day

slavery. Join CNN on March 16th for My Freedom Day and share what freedom means to you on social media using the #MyFreedomDay.