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Even today, triads and organized crime remain firmly entrenched in Hong Kong with Triads operating worldwide. Interestingly, an attribute of early triad societies was honour. They first began as secret societies in 17th century China. Their initial aim was to oust the Qing dynasty and restore Ming rule. However, the attempt was unsuccessful. By the 20th century, the original fraternities had long fragmented into separate factions.
As a matter of fact, in the 1960s, there were around 60 triad gangs. The Hong Kong Police estimated that one-sixth of Hong Kong’s population had triad connections.
The Sun Yee On triad society is the odd one out. Firstly, there is no honour to this society. The Sun Yee On formed in the early 1900s as a mutual self-preservation society. Many of its members came from China’s Chiu Chow region. One triad expert estimated that the Sun Yee On had almost 47,000 members by the 1970s.
Secondly, the Sun Yee On is highly organised. As an example, a number is allocated to individual members on joining up. Ironically, this is similar to a police force! The Sun Yee On co-operated with the Japanese forces in Hong Kong during WWII. Much of the older population still remembers this. The Sun Yee On, for instance, controlled the importation of rice and the distribution of it across Hong Kong. This racket made very large sums of money for the Sun Yee On.
Under the Laws of Hong Kong, triad societies are unlawful. In fact, Hong Kong is the only place in the world with specific legislation: The Societies Ordinance. This aims at curbing the impact and criminal activities of the triads.
Yet, to this day, their influence extends to the very top of Hong Kong’s society.
In the past, investigations found triad members amongst the ranks of senior government officials, police, customs officers, lawyers and accountants.
By reputation, some of Hong Kong’s richest business people are known triads. They represent the legitimate face of organized crime.
In Hong Kong, triads and organized crime go hand in hand. As often demonstrated, Hong Kong triads are adaptive and versatile. The triad societies exist for one reason only—to make money. They use every opportunity to do so—be it legal or illegal and are involved in almost every crime imaginable.
To stay successful, triads employ intimidation, threats and violence. Knives and meat cleavers are frequently used in triad-related woundings. Although less common than before, occasionally gang fights do still occur.
Merely insinuating you are a triad can be effective. Interestingly, “claiming” Membership of a Triad Society is a criminal offence in Hong Kong.
At present, the Sun Yee On, Wo Shing Wo, Wo On Lok and 14K triad societies are the largest in Hong Kong. Most are also active in the Macau casino scene, especially so in the junkets. The 14K, although largest numerically, has many sub-groups, such as the 14K Ngai, Hau and Tak. Each of these sub-groups could be regarded as a separate society.
The Hong Kong Police maintain a register of Court-recognized Triad Experts. These are officers trained in everything to do with triads, and who have worked on triad-related crimes for many years. To keep their knowledge current, they attend refresher training on a regular basis. One of our investigators is a retired Court Triad Expert.
On occasion, clients have approached us to conduct background checks on a specific individual who is known, or suspected to be, a triad. Unbelievably, we have even had two separate clients ask for investigations on the same person!
Importantly, clients benefit from our knowledge of triads in a much wider sense than simply responding to specific triad-related enquiries.
Triad influence filters into almost every aspect of Hong Kong life. Thus, with our experience, when we conduct investigative due diligence or general background checks into individuals or companies, we can see, almost immediately, if there are “red flag” triad issues.
In short, for most of our cases, the client has not previously known about triad connections. Nevertheless, identifying triad links is an inherent part of our service.
Wondering if any of your business contacts are involved with triads? Or, have triad-related activities affected any of your business transactions? Contact us now for a chat.
Triad organized crime makes money from businesses. For a price, they will:
And if you don’t pay? You could, for instance, find red paint splashed over your premises, or, your name written in red paint on the office walls, or possibly even the front door of your home. You might also find your front door lock has been filled with glue…