The Tong is a
collective term that describes many branches of the underground society
based in China. It is engaged in all forms of organized crimes such as
drug trafficking, money laundering, illegal gambling, prostitution, car
theft and other forms of racketeering. A major source of Tong income
today is from counterfeiting products of intellectual property, such as
computer software, music CDs and movie VCDs/DVDs. With the size of
membership numbered in the hundreds of thousands, it is estimated that
about 5% of China's male adult population holds some kind of Tong
There are about 50 Tong groups many of them minor localised street youth gangs. There are also several larger groups, all coming under the control of the main organisation. They are syndicates of sophisticated criminals, mirror images of similar empires of crime as the Mafia.
The Tong began in the late 1670s. A society called the Hung clan was formed to overthrow the Qing dynasty and restore the Ming Dynasty to power. The Hung clan used the triangle as their symbol, this particular symbol was important in recognizing their members. Over several centuries, the Triad developed from a patriotic society to a criminal organization. Following the fall of the Qing Dynasty of China in 1911, followers of the original Taiping Rebellion the Hung clan suddenly found themselves lost with purposes. Worse yet, they somehow managed to miss out on the opportunity to participate in the actual uprising, and many of them were left angry and depressed. Unable to revert to normal civilian lives after spending years living under grave danger and extreme violence, many ex-rebels reunited to form a cult which later came to be known as the Triad. Having lost the usual donations and support from the public after the collapse of the Qing empire, members of the newly formed cult resorted to money extortion from the unwilling public through all possible and even illegal means.
When the Communist Party of China took power in 1949, Mainland China was put under strict law enforcement and organized crime diminished. This is why the Triad migrated south to the British colony of Hong Kong for the continuation of their business. After the Mob in Hong Kong in 1956, the government actively enforced the laws that restricted and diminished the triad activities in Hong Kong.
There were numerous Triad groups in Hong Kong. By 1931, there were eight main Triad groups and they had divided Hong Kong up into geographic areas and ethnic groups that each group was responsible for controlling. The eight main ones at that time were the Wo, the Rung, the Tung, the Chuen, the Shing, the Fuk Yee Hing, the Yee On, and the Luen. Each had its own headquarters, its own sub-societies, and its own public covers. The problems of the triads in Hong Kong were more serious in the 1960s and 1970s. In the past, rumour had it that the police controlled the triads and the triads took charge of the social order. If there was a kidnap in a certain neighbourhood, the police would get the regional gang leader to resolve it. On the other hand, the police would associate with the regional gang leader in seizing the control of places where they would be in command of the businesses. Hence, there was spatial stability of social powers. Then, in 1974, the circumstances totally changed as the Independent Commission Against Corruption was established. As the police were no longer corrupt, the Triads had diminishing areas to control and the boundaries of triad power also blurred out. With less benefit from usual businesses, they had to focus on underground dealings.
Also, it is interesting to note that after the sovereignty of Hong Kong was handed over by the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China in 1997, a top official of the PRC central law enforcement agency publicly acknowledged his acceptance of the Triad, stating that many of its members were patriotic to the motherland.
Then, as the triads develop, certain ones began to monopolize some of the businesses in the 1980s and 1990s. For instance, the Sun Yee On had almost entire control over the movie sector. However, their activity fields have decreased greatly as the triads have to struggle against the collaborative anti-triad operations among the Mainland, Macau and Hong Kong. Besides, easy profits no longer exist, so some gang leaders are not keen on becoming the leader.
As for connections to foreign triads, their activities have been imported into North American Chinatowns as well, especially in San Francisco, New York City, and Vancouver. They are often largely responsible for smuggling illegal immigrants from Asia into the USA and Canada. Triads also have associations with local Asian American (Chinese and Vietnamese) teenage street gangs.
Mao Tse Chiang rose to power in the early 70s taking over one of the smaller Triad organisations in the U.S. In the mid 80s Mao made mystical contact with the daemon lord Tyrannus and was shown the power of the Tao. In the meantime Shiang Kai Fung had managed to take over all the Triad sects in China, uniting them and renaming them the Tong. In 1990 Mao moved back to China and with the help of other Chinese meta humans killed the Fung and took his place. The current Tong is a mixture of normal humans, metas and mystics.
|The Tong's hierarchy is a lot looser than other organisations.|
|Ma Jai||The basic foot soldier; 1st-5th level.|
|Shuk Foo||Captains within the local branch; 6th-11th level. There is no limit on the amount.|
|Yee Lo||In charge of the local branch and has the same powers as a Dai Lo within his own jurisdiction;12th-13th level.|
|Dai Lo||In charge of all the branches within his country and has the same powers as Number Two within his own jurisdiction; 14th level+|
|The Master||The lord and master. He sees all, hears all and absolutely nothing happens without his permission...at least it never happens more than once.|
There are a variety of norms and rules that govern the gangs. These include respecting the ah kung, beating up members of other gangs on your turf, not using drugs, following the orders of the Dai Lo, and not betraying the gang. Rules violators are punished, sometimes severely, such as through physical assault and killing.Use of violence within the group and against other organized crime groups is very prevalent. Disputes over territory and criminal markets among the gangs are typically resolved using Kong So, a process of peaceful negotiation. When this does not occur, however, the resolution is usually a violent one, in which guns are used against rival gang members. Law enforcement authorities believe that an escalation of gang violence has taken place in recent years, due in part to the advent of the Fuk Ching, and to gang involvement in alien smuggling activities.
The expert consensus is that the Fuk Ching, like other Chinese gangs, do not have the connections and stature to make them capable of corrupting U.S. police and judges. There have been only one or two cases of police corruption (none in recent years), and no cases of judicial corruption.
As to political influence, there is some ability to manipulate the political system via corruption in China – namely in Fujian Province and with respect to their human trafficking enterprise. In the United States, however, there is no evidence of corrupting the political process, of getting members elected or appointed to political office, nor of being able to manage media coverage of their activities. They are influential only in Chinatown, and their connections to U.S. politicians are non-existent. Any political influence Chinese gangs have is exerted through the tongs with which they are affiliated. For example, it is reported that the head of the Fukien American Association once gave $6,500 to a New York City Mayor’s re-election campaign (Kleinknecht, 1996:168). That the affiliation is not only beneficial to the gangs is evidenced in Chin’s report that tongs and other Chinatown community organizations benefit from the Chinese gangs’ threats of extortion because business owners donate money to the associations in the belief that this will buy protection (1996).
There is no evidence that Chinese gangs are involved with political terrorism either abroad or at home. Nor that they are associated with armed political groups of any kind.