In 1985 there was a three-day public hearing on Asian
organized crime that was conducted in New York City and it was declared “Asian
organized crime will end up being the number one organized crime problem in
North America in the next five years” (Chin 2015). While that may not have come
to fruition Asian organized crime has certainly grown substantially in the years
that followed. The question now remains, is there a monolithic criminal
organization called the Chinese Mafia? While federal law enforcement has named
multiple different groups of Chinese gangs, as the Chinese Mafia, there is no
actual structured organization by the name of the Chinese Mafia. ” To the law
enforcement community and the mass media in the United States and Europe, many
Chinese organized crime groups and networks are often lumped together and
called “triad” or “Chinese Mafia” with little regard to the varied historical,
cultural, social, and economic conditions that gave rise to the different types
of crime groups and networks” (Chin 2015).  Before gangs came into popularity there were
secret societies that ran the criminal activities, with the Hung and the Ching,
 being the main secret societies (Chin
1990). Chinese secret societies were formed in China to overthrow the Qing
dynasty and restore the Ming Dynasty (Chin 2015). In 1912 the members of Hung
and Qing societies successfully overthrew the Qing dynasty and helped bring
about the Republic of China (Chin 1990).  

The Hung societies was based on
members accepting heaven as father, and the earth of the mother
people are able to overcome “family name” obstacles and truly be one with one
another 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 to
commit crimes, however the oaths discretely hint to members that they should
rob and/or kill members that are not part of the brotherhood (Chin 1990).  On the other hand the Ching societies main
ideals were within their political values (Chin 1990).  Most individuals who joined the secret societies did so after
moving away from home, and the secret societies provided a sense of security
for the individuals in their new areas. Following the prevalence of the secret
societies, the Chinese Organized Crime Groups rose to the forefront.

            After Hong
Kong came under British rule, the secret societies started to make the
transition to organized crime groups. The initial Triad groups were
disorganized and there was a great deal of fighting between the groups before
the “Conference of Hung League” took place where the groups decided to operate
within a certain level of peace (Chin 1990). A few of the major Triad groups that
came to power were the 14K Association and The Big Four which was comprised of
nine organizations (Chin 1990). The rise of Chinese gangs was not limited to
Hong Kong. In the United States the majority of Chinatowns had their own form
of gang system that was prevelant in their community. In “California, New York,
Hawaii, Illinois, Texas, and Massachusetts” there are “large Chinese
communities” and they are “known as Chinatowns” (Chin 1990). Chinatowns contain
their own Chinese fraternal associations called tongs, these tongs eventually had
a gang associated with them in New York City Chinatown. The following Tongs are
located in Chinatown: On Leong, Hip Sing, Tung On, Tsung Tsin, Chih Kung and
the Fukien American (Chin 1990). In 1966 the On Leong started and they were
associated with the name the Ghost Shadows who controlled certain parts of
Chinatown in New York City, specifically Canal Street, Mulberry Street, Mott
Street and Bayard Street (Chin 1990). In 1967 The Hip Sing, started and they
are associated with the name the Flying Dragons and their main turf in New York
City was on Dover Street, Pell Street, Bowery Street, Grand Street, and Hester
Street (Chin 1990). The Tung On Gang has two sub gangs aligned with them, in
the Tung On and the Tsung Tsin, both of which started in 1974. Their main
territories within Chinatown are from Division Street, East Broadway, and
Catherine Street (Chin 1990). The Fukien American Association has the Fuk Ching
Gang which rose to prominence in 1983. Their territory is stretched across a
few streets; East Broadway, Chrystie Street, Forsyth Street, Eldridge Street,
and Allen Street (Chin 1990). There are also gangs in New York City that are
not 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, Baxter
Street, Center Street, Lafayette Street, and Broadway (Chin 1990). All of these
gangs are within a very small area within in Chinatown but the borderlines are
very well known and the gangs know not to cross into enemy territories without
repercussions. All gang members within in Chinatown are aware of their
territory and are sure to do business within their own territory, as to not
start unnecessary trouble with enemy gangs.

            Some of the
major groups and networks are; Triads, Jiaotou, Chinese Mafia-style gangs,
tongs, United States street gangs, heroin traffickers, the human smuggling
network, and human trafficking network (Chin 2015). Within these networks there
are subgroups or divisions that make up the overall group or network. The Hong
Kong-based Triads evolved from the Hung secret society and are regarded as on
of the most dangerous and best organized crime groups in the world (Black
1992).  The Triads are based out of Hong
Kong and Macau and the organization is extremely large with number of members
in the thousands (Chin 2015).  The rise
of the Triads came about when the Qing dynasty collapsed and the Republic of
China was established and they made a name for themselves by being involved in
criminal activities. The structure of the Hong Kong Triads is the opposite of a
monolithic organization, with triads being made of many subgroups that function
more like independent entities (Chin 2015). “The triads’ organizational
structure has become flexible and decentralized. The traditional rank system
has been largely reduced to three- Red Pole, 49, and Blue Lanterns” (Chin
1990). The main activities of the Triad societies are in “drugs, pirated
VCD/DVD trade in the street, speculative activities in the stock market, money
laundering, vehicle theft and smuggling, prostitution, extortion, loan
sharking, and illegal gambling” (Chin 2015). All of activities can be performed
by members of the Triad groups and they don’t need to get permission to engage
in an activity.

The Taiwan-based organized gang is a
larger number organization that is involved in a number of illegal activities
(Chin 2015). The key groups of Taiwan based organized crime groups are the
Bamboo United, the Four Seas, and the Celestial Alliance (Chin 2015). The
Taiwan based organized gangs are structured where there is a headquarters that
oversee the activities of the branches and within the headquarters there are
specific roles (Chin 2015). Those roles are the master, associate master, an
enforcer, a bodyguard, and a confidant of the master (Chin 2015). The Taiwan
based groups tend to be involved in extorting money from business owners or
providing protection for businesses for a fee. The Jiaotou gang is also based
out of Taiwan, but in comparison to the other organized crime groups of the
region, they are a very small group. The Jiaotou groups are very loosely
structured 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 and
national elections and have a great deal of pull within lawmakers and
government officials.

The next organized crime groups are
the China based Mafia-like Gangs. “Chinese authorities describe the most
advanced criminal organizations in China as ‘organizations with underworld
characteristics’ (or Mafia-like gangs) to differentiate them from other loosely
knit and less influential criminal organizations such as criminal gangs (some
degree of structure) and crime groups (no structure)” (Chin and Godson 2006).
There are a few characteristics that an organization must have; clear
structure, pursuit of economic gain by illegal means, repeated offenses of
violence or intimidation, and control of a given area by illegal means (Chin
2015). It was estimated that in 2004 there were approximately 4,200 mafia-like
gangs in China (Chin 2015). The groups themselves aren’t that large, but there
is a large number of the gangs individually operating. Each of the gangs are
led by a leader who relies on core members to carry out his orders and they
have to have protection from a government official or multiple officials to
remain relevant (Chin 2015). The activities of the Chinese mafia-like gangs involve
robbery, 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-style
gangs are also involved in legitimate businesses, and that trend is growing
within the businesses.

Finally there are the US based Tongs
and Street Gangs, which came to fruition by providing g services such as job
referrals and housing assistance to Chinese immigrants who otherwise couldn’t
obtain such services (Chin 2015). Theses Tongs are comprised of thousands of
members, most notably of the On Leong, Hip Sing, and Tung On tongs (Chin
2015).  While there are thousands of a
small number of the members of the tongs engage in illegal activities, while
the 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 a
headquarters with a president, a vice president, a secretary, a treasurer, an
auditor, and several elders and public relation administrators (Chin 2015). The
main activities of the tongs are in the gambling, but some members are involved
in the drug and sex trafficking rings, but those individuals are independently
acting on their own behalves (Chin 2015). The street gangs of the United States
will have one or two primary leaders who work closely with the leaders of their
affiliated tong. Each street gang will have a big brother and one more
street-level clique leaders who are in charge of the lower level members (Chin
2015). The street gangs are mostly involved in the extortion of business owners
in their territories and also play a role in protecting the gambling and sex
establishments in their territories (Chin 2015).