(NOTE: Please remember that information in this section dates back to the mid-1980's.)|
Asian street-gang problems, the youthful type or otherwise, are, assuredly, not unique to San Francisco.
The Wah Mee Social Club sits in an alley of Seattle's International District, a smaller version of San Francisco's Chinatown. On a quiet afternoon, 13 elderly Chinese were engaged in a game of pai gow, an Oriental type of dominoes. Three younger Chinese, immigrants from Hong Kong, entered quietly by the front door and walked into the game room.
A short time later, when a police unit drove by the alley's entry, cries for help alerted the officers to stop. On the pavement outside the Wah Mee, they saw an old man. His hands were bound behind his back; a bullet wound gaped in his head. His voice growing weaker, he implored them to go inside. A trail of blood indicated that he had crawled out of the social club. In the Wah Mee, the policemen discovered the other 12 elderly gentlemen, their hands similarly bound, their dead bodies sprawled among fallen dominoes. All had been shot in the head.
An intensive investigation based on the survivor's description of the perpetrators led to the apprehension of the three Chinese youths, one in Canada. All had attempted flight to Hong Kong.
A few weeks before, a city official had proudly announced that there was no Chinese gang activity in Seattle. A special Wah Mee Task Force, established after the massacre, found otherwise. In San Francisco, two major Tongs nearly went to war over the Wah Mee affair, the first accusing the second of the homicides because the three suspects were members of the second, and the victims were members of the first. Stern admonishments by members of the Gang Task Force, to the chairman of each Tong, averted a repetition of the Ross Alley Tong War of 1875.
In New York state, two Chinese were found dead, one in the Borough of Queens, the other on Long Island. Tattoos on their bodies indicated membership in the United Bamboo, a Taiwan-based crime organization.
(On October 15, 1984, Henry Liu, author and journalist who had been critical of the Taiwanese government, was shot and killed by hooded assailants in the garage of his home in Daly City, California. Investigation by the Daly City Police Department identified the killers as three members of the United Bamboo. Further investigation revealed that the chief intelligence officer of the Taiwanese regime had dispatched these people to kill Liu either in his Daly City home or in his business at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. This relationship between the United Bamboo and the Taiwanese government has created consternation in the United States.)
In New York City, a 15-year-old F.O.B. shot seven people on a crowded sidewalk in that city's Chinatown. None of the wounded died. The would-be assassin was a gang kid, as were five of his victims. The other two, a 4-year-old boy he shot in the head and a male diner in a nearby restaurant, were not.
Also in Manhattan's Chinatown, an undetermined number of masked gunmen invaded the Golden Star Restaurant at 2:35 A.M, the hour of hsiao yeh, and surprised 25 patrons with a volley of 25 shots. They fired indiscriminately on two separate groups and fled the scene. Behind them they left eight victims: one 13-year-old boy, already dead, a boy of 17 and a man of 20, dying, and eight wounded.
At least one of the injured was a member of a San Francisco youth gang, the Kit Jai. He had fled San Francisco when he learned that he might be called as a witness against a fellow Kit Jai who had murdered a Wah Ching.
Most of the other victims at New York's Golden Star were thought to be members of the White Tigers and Free Masons gangs, and their assailants, members of the Ghost Shadows or the Flying Dragons. All the victims were gang guys.
One paramedic at the scene declared it: "Sheer pandemonium! It was like being in Vietnam!"
There had already been several such attacks on the Golden Star, including one in which the owner was wounded. In all cases, witnesses were afraid to volunteer information.
Police believed that the White Tigers and the Ghost Shadows were at war over the right to extort merchants in Chinatown for protection money. A 14-year-old White Tiger died, and a 15-year-old Ghost Shadow was seriously wounded, at a New York University dance a month before the attack on the Golden Star.
Chinese gang violence in the largest city in the United States reportedly claimed 15 lives in 1981 and 1982.
In Vancouver, the son and daughter-in-law of a prominent Chinese businessman were kidnapped and held for a ransom of $700,000. The parents were warned by the Asian perpetrators not to contact police, but this warning was ignored. Plainclothesmen were spotted by the gang at the ransom drop-off point. Shortly thereafter, the parents were notified that the young people had been murdered in retaliation. The bodies were found in a remote area, wrapped in a mattress cover. The young man's legs had been chopped off at the knee.
Also in Canada, the city of Alberta reported a drastic increase in shootings related to Tong gambling activities.
In London, a Chinese restaurant owner was beaten to death by four Chinese gang youths who actually wanted to kill his son. The son later told investigators at Scotland Yard that he had gone to The Netherlands in hopes of clearing his name of charges in the homicide of another Chinese connected with Asian gangs there. He had directed Dutch police to the corpse of the man, whose murder, until then, had gone unrecorded.
Red China, despite earlier claims to have "conquered crime," is thought to surpass all other nations in the number of "criminal" executions each year, even more than the large numbers reported from Iran. Many of the crimes leading to such drastic measures may be, by Western interpretation, of a political nature, but contrary to Communist propaganda, many vices still thrive in China, especially in and around Canton. Brothels and gambling dens flourish, and crimes against property and people are rife. Expertly trained to be "invisible" to their subjects, bodyguards have been assigned by the government to protect unsuspecting foreign tourists from criminal acts, thus promoting the success of the Cultural Revolution in the eyes of the outside world.
Nor has the Red government shirked from harboring criminals who perpetrate raids on Hong Kong. A gang of former People's Liberation Army Red Guards, called Dai Hung Wuk Jai, "Big Circle Gang"--a name derived from the coincidence that the Mainland villages or communes of their origin happen to form a circle on the map--is reported by Royal Hong Kong Police to have entered the Colony regularly, via Macao. They bring their own weapons and raise havoc. They have shot and killed police officers. They generally commit robberies of banks and gold shops, then slip away to Canton to disperse the spoils. They operate in squads, with military precision. They are determined and fearless, and it is suspected that some have managed to infiltrate the refugee camps, thus being able to enter the United States easily by posing as displaced persons.
Red China is faltering economically. The free-trade zones are failing. The Shenzen Economic Zone has cost the Peking government more than a billion dollars--and foreign investors hundreds of millions--while breeding massive corruption that includes drug traffic, street gangs and prostitution. It was supposed to have provided a model center for the production of high-quality export goods expected to earn desperately needed foreign exchange.
The British Crown Colony of Hong Kong is a major camp area for displaced Southeast Asians being processed prior to relocation to other parts of the world, with the largest number being sent to the United States. These camps are managed by persons (some of whom are former United States servicemen) with prior military, legal, and service experience in South Vietnam. At any given time, there are up to 25,000 Asians in these camps. The camps are temporary, are not governed well, and, on occasion, are unmanageable.
The Royal Hong Kong Police have been called in to put down riots in the camps. These are serious and dangerous incidents. Up to 900 police riot personnel have been deployed at one time. An extreme level of violence is attained, centering around political confrontations between North and South Vietnamese.
Most of these refugees claim poverty, but occasional incidents arise that lead to other conclusions. A ship, the Hoit Fong, arrived in Hong Kong with 1200 refugees, all declaring themselves destitute; however, a search of the vessel revealed $5,000,000 in gold secreted on board. It is known that the wealthy in Vietnam were military or government officials, drug dealers or successful merchants.
Organized gangs exist within the camps, preying on their own people in robberies, burglaries, pickpocketing, extortion, and crimes of violence. Intimidation of reportees or witnesses is a common occurrence. It is interesting to note that the areas around these camps are frequently victimized prior to the departure of groups of refugees for the United States or other countries. Gangs leave the camps to make forays into adjacent residential and shopping areas to rob local citizens. The bandits disregard everything except cash. Then they return to the camps and melt into the general population.
Inside the camps are both criminal and political gangs, many of the leaders being former North Vietnamese intelligence officers.
These refugees have been forced to survive in a continuously war-disrupted environment for most of their lives. They are protective of their own kind and distrustful of government and its aims. Many of them have turned to necessarily cunning and devious life styles. Although most are hard workers desperate to integrate themselves into a lawful society, others are manipulative circumventors of the law.
There is a high degree of uncertainty with regard to the future of Hong Kong, related to the possible return of the New Territories, acquired from China on a 99-year lease in 1898, to the People's Republic. This presently weighs heavily against foreign investment and new construction in the Colony.
The economic problems besetting the People's Republic are reflected in Hong Kong. The fact, however, that Hong Kong continues to be a powerful financial center beneficial to both the international image and the domestic economy of the People's Republic lends thrust to the hope that accommodations may be negotiated in the matter of the New Territories.
Hong Kong today is controlled by three groups: the British Jardine Matheson conglomerate (Taipans of Hong Kong), which recently opened offices in the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco; the Shanghai Trade Bank, and the Stewards of the Royal Jockey Club, a consortium of a hundred of the most influential residents of the Colony.
Recently, it has been discovered that heroin coming from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia is processed in Bangkok; brought into China through Yunnan Province, thence to Peking, Shanghai, and Canton, across the border to Macao and, finally, to Hong Kong for distribution throughout the world. The Golden Triangle, due to an unseasonable frost in 1980, had a poor harvest in 1981; however, good weather has produced a bumper crop every year since then. The world market is glutted with what the Chinese call, among other names, "white flour."
The Triad Society Division of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force indicates that Triad operatives in Hong Kong maintain a standard procedure for establishing bases in other countries for the transmission of drugs and the extension of other criminal activities. After initiation into a Hong Kong Triad, a member immigrates to a selected foreign city and either recruits his own gang from among the Chinese he finds there, or, if no easy candidates are forthcoming, he operates alone.
The system is virtually foolproof because it is so thoroughly private. No massive networking exists in the usual sense. It becomes a matter between "friends" or "associates." It is probably the most effective and sophisticated method extant today because the ad hoc affiliation with the Hong Kong Triad is undetectable--and unfailing.
The Chinese believe in loyalty.
On October 23, 1984, in New York City, U.S. Attorney General William French Smith advised the President's Commission on Organized Crime that Asian "crime cartels" were infiltrating the United States. The hearings, conducted for three days, focused on Chinese and Japanese crime groups emerging in North America. Law-enforcement agents and two hooded witnesses informed the commission that evidence had been uncovered to link Triad leaders in Hong Kong with American Tongs. Reference was made to street gangs in New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Oakland and Toronto.
Smith said that "we may be witnessing nothing less than the beginning of the end of the traditional organized crime that has plagued our nation for so many decades." This was a reference to La Cosa Nostra and the Mafia. "I have been continually impressed with the degree to which organized crime has entered a new historical phase...."
Federal Judge Irving R. Kaufman stated that Asian groups control the importing of heroin from the Golden Triangle. James D. Harmon Jr., the commission's chief counsel, declared that the Hong Kong Triads, using their connections with American Tongs and street gangs, are responsible for "about 20 percent of the heroin" smuggled into the country.
One of the hooded witnesses, speaking from behind a screen and through a voice scrambler, claimed that 100 to 200 members of New York's Ghost Shadows were Vietnamese refugees, recruited because they were familiar with handling guns.
While he spoke, investigators observed street gang members clustered outside the hearing room.