After-dark skulduggery in town likely to be triad led

14K, Sun Yee On and Wo Shing Wo plus lesser criminal societies suck at businesses like leeches, police and researcher say

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The 14K, Sun Yee On and Wo Shing Wo, Hong Kong’s most active triad societies, are likely to be operating in Sai Kung, according to police sources and a university researcher. To add to the after-dark skulduggery, lesser triad societies will be at work here, too.

Sharon Ingrid Kwok is a former lecturer and PhD student in the City University’s Applied Social Science Department headed by Prof. T. Wing Lo, one of Hong Kong’s foremost criminologists.

She says triad societies will be anywhere there are lucrative businesses they can exploit. The go-to person on triads for the media, both internationally and locally, Sharon hasn’t studied Sai Kung specifically. “But it will be the same as other major New Territories centres. They will be in the town and some big villages.”

Entertainment businesses, bars, restaurants and hawkers will be targeted for protection money, if they are Chinese run. Foreigner-led places will probably be left alone. “Any business operating after midnight will definitely have to pay.”

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Car valet extortion in this area has been a big police-time-wasting problem for decades. Triads may or may not be involved. Sharon Kwok says this kind of criminal behaviour is typical. A former Sai Kung Divisional Police Commander tried to have the area pedestrianised to wipe out the problem. The District Council said, no. Pedestrianising the area “would be bad for business”

“Typically with a new restaurant the triads will come and ask you for money,” she said. They do forced selling — flowers, portraits, even stickers of the Chinese “God of Wealth”–  at exorbitant prices.  If a restauranteur refuses to pay, “they will sit at a table all day long with one drink, making loud noises, yelling that the food is rubbish and scaring customers away.”

Told about Sai Kung’s problems with car valet services outside the sea food restaurants, Sharon said, “This is very common. Their attitude is, this is our territory. You have to share the profits you are making in our territory with us.”

The most serious triad crime in Sai Kung occurred at Yung Shue O about 12 years ago.  The body of a Wo Shing Wo member was found on a bush trail.  He had been executed, with two bullets to the head and one in the back.

Drug dealing is so widespread it is hard to prevent, Sharon said.  Cash will be paid, even in the main street, and drugs delivered elsewhere. Whether the triads are involved depends on the amount and quality of the drugs. The deeper you go into the supply chain the more you will find triad involvement, she said. Some youngsters will be going to dealers in Mongkok, Tsimshatsui and China and returning with drugs to sell in schools. 

One operator of a youth sports club told SAI KUNG BUZZ he has been in the main street near McDonald’s with teenagers, 13 to 18 year olds, and seen them approached by drug pushers. “My kids don’t want to be involved and they tell me they don’t like it.”

A few youth gangs will be associated with, or targeted by, triads. Foot massage places may be triad run. If it is a front for prostitution you can tell by the happy face on the sign, Sharon said. 

Generally triad activity in Hong Kong is much less serious than it used to be. The laws are much tougher and the police more effective. Triads are scared of undercover police “ghosts” and rarely hold initiation ceremonies, because evidence will be used against them. They will avoid violence, preferring to negotiate. Too much police attention is bad for business. 

Modern triads like to go into licit businesses. “They’re legitimate businesses, but are operated illegitimately.” 

Sharon is close to finishing a PhD thesis titled “How Triads Establish Social Capital for Operating Organised Crime.” She has interviewed triads of all levels including Cho Kun (Chairman), Red Poles (enforcers) and White Paper Fans (masterminds). She takes the time to get to know them and wins their trust. 

Sharon is a pretty young lady, but she refuses to be photographed.


Three former and current Hong Kong police officers were asked to comment on the attached story mainly based on an interview with university researcher Sharon Kwok.  None of the police wanted to be quoted by name. Here’s what they had to say…

RETIRED POLICE OFFICER, SO SENIOR HE WAS ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, COMMENTS ON TRIADS IN SAI KUNG

 All too true I’m afraid.

Triads have been well established here for years and the police have never really got to grips with them. A bit like the Mafia in Italy. Tolerated as a necessary evil.

Triads are still very active in Kowloon running protection rackets, bars, drugs, illegal gambling and loan sharks. They are very strongly established in Macau, the two main ones being San Yee On and 14K. The other lesser one is Wo Shing Wo. You know there are problems when a senior triad office bearer gets chopped and killed, in the case outside the Shangri-La hotel five years ago. That was over protection of bars and drugs where one triad society upset the other.

In Sai Kung triad activity will be fairly low level by Hong Kong standards, but shop keepers will be squeezed and mini-buses will all pay the triads for protection.

The Chinese authorities have in the past regarded them as potentially useful as they can mobilise members quickly and provide support in unstable political situations.


COMMENT FROM RETIRED SENIOR POLICE OFFICER 

The article is fairly innocuous and I have no argument with it.  Triads have a payroll obligation to fulfill each month and so do not focus on, say, committing a one-off bank robbery, but rather something that will provide them with a regular income such as extortion of business owners, running car jockeys outside bars and restaurants, PLB stands, drugs, prostitution, etc.  Back in my day they were very much involved in providing decoration services for new government housing blocks — they would identify a potential lucrative income stream such as a government grant and then intimidate others to ensure that they had no competition in providing the service.  They do not want to attract police attention as that will disrupt their income flow, so will target businesses that can look at payments they make to the triad as a “cost of doing business”.  


SERVING POLICE OFFICER WHO HAS WORKED IN SAI KUNG OFFERS REASSURANCE

Sai Kung is very quiet concerning triads. The seafront car valet services are there because of traffic problems. They are probably controlled or affiliated (with triads) but it’s low level and difficult to substantiate. The police are constantly enforcing traffic laws in that area so flow is maintained. Protection rackets are not a major problem. Drugs are not triad organised. Any hints of triad activity will be subject to robust action and in-depth investigation. The Force (and Sai Kung police) won’t tolerate any escalation. 

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