Last week we spoke about the phenomena of prostitution in Hong Kong. But to understand the mechanics of that business, one must really look at our city's Triad societies. (We also discuss the triads on our Tsim Sha Tsui walk) These criminal societies have been a menace to law enforcement since Hong Kong's earliest days; Samuel Fearon, an early colonial official, identified the ultimate source of criminality in Hong Kong as being triad societies even as early as 1842. Triad membership has been an offense in the city since 1844. However, due to the huge amounts of money their businesses in drugs, prostitution, gambling, copyright piracy and extortion command, and the huge coffers with which to corrupt police and officials, they are a difficult force to eradicate. Thankfully, it appears that the governments of Hong Kong, Guangdong and even Macau are making a genuine effort to control their activities.
Modern Triad societies have been a part of Chinese life for over 300 years. However, for their first two centuries they at least had some higher aspirations - to overthrow the Qing dynasty, which was made up of foreign Manchus, and replace it with Han Chinese leadership. For the first Chinese immigrants to Hong Kong, understanding the alien British justice system, let alone getting satisfaction from it, was nigh impossible. Not only was there a major language barrier, but the the concepts of jury trials, of a judge being separate from the prosecutor, of being innocent until being proven guilty, were all ideas that were not part of life in China. The British, at least initially, had only been able to recruit the dregs of English society, highly corruptible, into the Hong Kong police force, and none of them could speak any Chinese dialect. This made for a huge demand for justice and law enforcement in the Chinese community, and the Triads were only too happy to step into the breach. This was particularly the case after 1854, when the failed "Red Turban" Revolt that was suppressed by the Qing resulted in many triad members fleeing to Hong Kong.
The fact that the triads were operating in a colonial environment that created many grievances within the local Chinese community further made it a fertile breeding ground for the recruitment of new members. That was certainly why Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Father of Modern China, found the triad societies so helpful in organizing money, men, arms and equipment throughout the Chinese community in Hong Kong and beyond in overseas Chinese communities; they were instrumental in bringing about the Revolution of 1911.
After the liberation of China from the Qing dynasty, however, the Triads gradually lost their idealistic elements. They were invaluable allies to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, particularly the 'Green Gang' of Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s. For many years after the KMT retreat to Taiwan, the Generalissimo continued to send floral bouquets honoring senior triad society leaders that had supported him during the Republican era.
One of the most famous triads, and one that is mentioned in The Standard article I quoted earlier, is the 14k. According to Bertil Lintner, a worldwide authority on Triads, it was founded by a Nationalist general named Kot Siu-Wong in 1947. Its name came from its first address, No. 14 Po Wah Road in Guangzhou. Upon the takeover of China by the Communists in 1949, the General took his followers south to Hong Kong, and set up an enclave in Junk Bay that flew a Nationalist flag until just before 1997. This society later spawned such underworld luminaries such as 'Broken Tooth'.
Today, there continues to be over 50 triad societies operating in Hong Kong, varying in size from a few hundred to several thousand. Most though, are not active members, reservists if you will, to be called upon in times of need for for specialty skills.
Let's see whether these government campaigns against the triads shall be sustained...
Monday, June 20, 2005
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LOVE HONG KONG...GREAT CITY IN THE WORLD....
Triads are very good business men I dont agree in everything they do. But in reality they are to powerful there is more than meets the eye with the goverment. Hong Kong is a city that will never be dull and is exciting and very dangerous and good for world trading N1 city...
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