In 1985 there was a three-day public hearing on Asianorganized crime that was conducted in New York City and it was declared “Asianorganized crime will end up being the number one organized crime problem inNorth America in the next five years” (Chin 2015). While that may not have cometo fruition Asian organized crime has certainly grown substantially in the yearsthat followed. The question now remains, is there a monolithic criminalorganization called the Chinese Mafia? While federal law enforcement has namedmultiple different groups of Chinese gangs, as the Chinese Mafia, there is noactual structured organization by the name of the Chinese Mafia. ” To the lawenforcement community and the mass media in the United States and Europe, manyChinese organized crime groups and networks are often lumped together andcalled “triad” or “Chinese Mafia” with little regard to the varied historical,cultural, social, and economic conditions that gave rise to the different typesof crime groups and networks” (Chin 2015). Before gangs came into popularity there weresecret societies that ran the criminal activities, with the Hung and the Ching, being the main secret societies (Chin1990). Chinese secret societies were formed in China to overthrow the Qingdynasty and restore the Ming Dynasty (Chin 2015). In 1912 the members of Hungand Qing societies successfully overthrew the Qing dynasty and helped bringabout the Republic of China (Chin 1990).
The Hung societies was based onmembers accepting heaven as father, and the earth of the motherpeople are able to overcome “family name” obstacles and truly be one with oneanother in that sense. The Hung valued the ideals of brotherhood and loyalty,requiring each member to “take the 36 solemn oaths of loyalty” (Chin 1990).These are oaths that swear loyalty, and are not meant to tell the members tocommit crimes, however the oaths discretely hint to members that they shouldrob and/or kill members that are not part of the brotherhood (Chin 1990). On the other hand the Ching societies mainideals were within their political values (Chin 1990). Most individuals who joined the secret societies did so aftermoving away from home, and the secret societies provided a sense of securityfor the individuals in their new areas. Following the prevalence of the secretsocieties, the Chinese Organized Crime Groups rose to the forefront. After HongKong came under British rule, the secret societies started to make thetransition to organized crime groups.
The initial Triad groups weredisorganized and there was a great deal of fighting between the groups beforethe “Conference of Hung League” took place where the groups decided to operatewithin a certain level of peace (Chin 1990). A few of the major Triad groups thatcame to power were the 14K Association and The Big Four which was comprised ofnine organizations (Chin 1990). The rise of Chinese gangs was not limited toHong Kong.
In the United States the majority of Chinatowns had their own formof gang system that was prevelant in their community. In “California, New York,Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, and Massachusetts” there are “large Chinesecommunities” and they are “known as Chinatowns” (Chin 1990). Chinatowns containtheir own Chinese fraternal associations called tongs, these tongs eventually hada gang associated with them in New York City Chinatown. The following Tongs arelocated in Chinatown: On Leong, Hip Sing, Tung On, Tsung Tsin, Chih Kung andthe Fukien American (Chin 1990). In 1966 the On Leong started and they wereassociated with the name the Ghost Shadows who controlled certain parts ofChinatown in New York City, specifically Canal Street, Mulberry Street, MottStreet and Bayard Street (Chin 1990).
In 1967 The Hip Sing, started and theyare associated with the name the Flying Dragons and their main turf in New YorkCity was on Dover Street, Pell Street, Bowery Street, Grand Street, and HesterStreet (Chin 1990). The Tung On Gang has two sub gangs aligned with them, inthe Tung On and the Tsung Tsin, both of which started in 1974. Their mainterritories within Chinatown are from Division Street, East Broadway, andCatherine Street (Chin 1990).
The Fukien American Association has the Fuk ChingGang which rose to prominence in 1983. Their territory is stretched across afew streets; East Broadway, Chrystie Street, Forsyth Street, Eldridge Street,and Allen Street (Chin 1990). There are also gangs in New York City that arenot aligned with a Tong association, for example the B2K members or Born – to –Kill or the Canal Boys which controls their territory on Canal Street, BaxterStreet, Center Street, Lafayette Street, and Broadway (Chin 1990). All of thesegangs are within a very small area within in Chinatown but the borderlines arevery well known and the gangs know not to cross into enemy territories withoutrepercussions. All gang members within in Chinatown are aware of theirterritory and are sure to do business within their own territory, as to notstart unnecessary trouble with enemy gangs.
Some of themajor groups and networks are; Triads, Jiaotou, Chinese Mafia-style gangs,tongs, United States street gangs, heroin traffickers, the human smugglingnetwork, and human trafficking network (Chin 2015). Within these networks thereare subgroups or divisions that make up the overall group or network. The HongKong-based Triads evolved from the Hung secret society and are regarded as onof the most dangerous and best organized crime groups in the world (Black1992). The Triads are based out of HongKong and Macau and the organization is extremely large with number of membersin the thousands (Chin 2015). The riseof the Triads came about when the Qing dynasty collapsed and the Republic ofChina was established and they made a name for themselves by being involved incriminal activities. The structure of the Hong Kong Triads is the opposite of amonolithic organization, with triads being made of many subgroups that functionmore like independent entities (Chin 2015). “The triads’ organizationalstructure has become flexible and decentralized.
The traditional rank systemhas been largely reduced to three- Red Pole, 49, and Blue Lanterns” (Chin1990). The main activities of the Triad societies are in “drugs, piratedVCD/DVD trade in the street, speculative activities in the stock market, moneylaundering, vehicle theft and smuggling, prostitution, extortion, loansharking, and illegal gambling” (Chin 2015). All of activities can be performedby members of the Triad groups and they don’t need to get permission to engagein an activity.The Taiwan-based organized gang is alarger number organization that is involved in a number of illegal activities(Chin 2015). The key groups of Taiwan based organized crime groups are theBamboo United, the Four Seas, and the Celestial Alliance (Chin 2015).
TheTaiwan based organized gangs are structured where there is a headquarters thatoversee the activities of the branches and within the headquarters there arespecific roles (Chin 2015). Those roles are the master, associate master, anenforcer, a bodyguard, and a confidant of the master (Chin 2015). The Taiwanbased groups tend to be involved in extorting money from business owners orproviding protection for businesses for a fee. The Jiaotou gang is also basedout of Taiwan, but in comparison to the other organized crime groups of theregion, they are a very small group. The Jiaotou groups are very looselystructured with only two main roles within the group; big boss and little brothers(Chin 2015).
Members of the Jiaotou group are heavily involved in local andnational elections and have a great deal of pull within lawmakers andgovernment officials.The next organized crime groups arethe China based Mafia-like Gangs. “Chinese authorities describe the mostadvanced criminal organizations in China as ‘organizations with underworldcharacteristics’ (or Mafia-like gangs) to differentiate them from other looselyknit and less influential criminal organizations such as criminal gangs (somedegree of structure) and crime groups (no structure)” (Chin and Godson 2006).
There are a few characteristics that an organization must have; clearstructure, pursuit of economic gain by illegal means, repeated offenses ofviolence or intimidation, and control of a given area by illegal means (Chin2015). It was estimated that in 2004 there were approximately 4,200 mafia-likegangs in China (Chin 2015). The groups themselves aren’t that large, but thereis a large number of the gangs individually operating. Each of the gangs areled by a leader who relies on core members to carry out his orders and theyhave to have protection from a government official or multiple officials toremain relevant (Chin 2015).
The activities of the Chinese mafia-like gangs involverobbery, extortion, gambling, prostitution, and loansharking (Chin 2015).Another key area that they are involved in is the emerging drug distribution,but they remain out of the heroin business (Chin 2015). Some of the mafia-stylegangs are also involved in legitimate businesses, and that trend is growingwithin the businesses.Finally there are the US based Tongsand Street Gangs, which came to fruition by providing g services such as jobreferrals and housing assistance to Chinese immigrants who otherwise couldn’tobtain such services (Chin 2015). Theses Tongs are comprised of thousands ofmembers, most notably of the On Leong, Hip Sing, and Tung On tongs (Chin2015).
While there are thousands of asmall number of the members of the tongs engage in illegal activities, whilethe remainder of the members hold legitimate jobs or have their own businesses.The leaders of the tongs make the majority of the decisions and have aheadquarters with a president, a vice president, a secretary, a treasurer, anauditor, and several elders and public relation administrators (Chin 2015). Themain activities of the tongs are in the gambling, but some members are involvedin the drug and sex trafficking rings, but those individuals are independentlyacting on their own behalves (Chin 2015). The street gangs of the United Stateswill have one or two primary leaders who work closely with the leaders of theiraffiliated tong. Each street gang will have a big brother and one morestreet-level clique leaders who are in charge of the lower level members (Chin2015). The street gangs are mostly involved in the extortion of business ownersin their territories and also play a role in protecting the gambling and sexestablishments in their territories (Chin 2015).