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|Territory||Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Macau, Taiwan|
|Criminal activities||Contract Killing, Prostitution, Counterfeiting, Health care fraud, drug trafficking, extortion, murder|
|Literal meaning||Three Harmonies Society|
|Vietnamese alphabet||Hội Tam Hoàng|
|Hán tự||會 三 皇|
Triad refers to the many branches of Chinese transnational organized crime organizations based in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and also in countries with significant Chinese populations, such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Siam (now Thailand), the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
The term "Triad" was assumed to be coined by British authorities in colonial Hong Kong, as a reference to the triads' use of triangular imagery. While never proven, it is "highly probable" that triad organizations either took after or were originally part of the revolutionary movement called the White Lotus Society.
In 1644, the Battle of Shanhai Pass placed the Qing Dynasty into power of mainland China upon defeating the Ming Dynasty. The ruling Qings were afraid of the Shaolin Monks and ordered them to be destroyed under Shunzhi Emperor. The Shaolin Monks fled and marked the beginning of Chinese secret societies. However, only Five Shaolin Monks survived and escaped seeking refuge in the Sacred Mountains of China. The five monks were referred to as The Triad Five Elders and founded the martial art known as Ng Jo Kuen. The Tiandihui were believed to derive from Ming Dynasty loyalists and these Shaolin monks.
In the 1760s, the Heaven and Earth Society (天地會), a fraternal organization was founded, and as the society's influence spread throughout China, it branched into several smaller groups with different names, one of which was the Three Harmonies Society (三合會). These societies adopted the triangle as their emblem, usually accompanied by decorative images of swords or portraits of Guan Yu. Their aim was to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and restore Ming Dynasty.
In British Hong Kong, there was a strong intolerance for secret societies. While being unaware of their previous issues the British considered the Tiandihui a criminal threat. The Tiandihui were charged and imprisoned in Hong Kong which was under British law at that time.
During the 1800s, many such societies were seen as legitimate ways of helping new immigrants from China settle into a new country. Secret societies were officially banned by the British government in Singapore during the 1890s and slowly stamped out by successive colonial governors and leaders over time. The opium trade, prostitution and brothels were also banned. Immigrants were encouraged to seek help from a local kongsi instead of turning to secret societies, which also contributed to their decline. After World War II, these societies saw a resurgence as gangsters took advantage of the uncertainty and growing anti-British sentiment. Certain Chinese communities, such as some "new villages" of Kuala Lumpur and Bukit Ho Swee in Singapore became notorious for gang violence.
When the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949 in mainland China, law enforcement became stricter and tough governmental crackdown on criminal organizations forced the triads to migrate to Hong Kong, then a British colony. It was estimated that in the 1950s, there were about 300,000 triad members in Hong Kong. Academics at the University of Hong Kong say that most triad societies were established between 1914 and 1939, and that there were once more than 300 in the territory. Since then the number of such groups has consolidated to around 50, of which 14 are still regularly in the eye of police. By 1951, there were nine main triads operating in Hong Kong and they had divided the land according to their ethnic groups and geographical locations, with each triad in charge of a region. The nine triads were Wo Hop To, Wo Shing Wo, Rung, Tung, Chuen, Shing, Sun Yee On, 14K and Luen. Each of them had their own headquarters, sub-societies and public fronts. After the 1956 riots, the Hong Kong government introduced stricter law enforcement and the triads became less active. The recent manoeuvering of the triads has signalled an inner war going on. The wongs and the marounies has made significant public attacks on each other leading to a blood bath in gulmirah. This happened and the heir of the marounies went unreported. The nearest possible location of Nereaux.A.S.Marounie dʒuː the 438 of the family was in India.Mere speculation was specified proper. Marounie Sr. was happening to plan something big for the wongs. The Chuen,Shing and 14K are ethnic in the issue.
Triads currently engage in a variety of crimes from extortion and money laundering to trafficking and prostitution. They also are involved in smuggling and counterfeiting goods such as music, video, and software as well as more tangible goods such as clothes, watches, and money.
Triads have been engaging in counterfeiting since the 1880s. Between the 1960s and 1970s, triads were involved in counterfeiting Chinese currency, often of the Hong Kong 50-cent piece. In the same decade, the gangs were also involved in copying books, usually expensive ones, and selling them in the black market. With the advent of new technology and the improvement of the average person's standard of living, triads have progressed to producing counterfeit goods such as watches, film VCDs / DVDs and designer apparel such as clothing and handbags. Since the 1970s, triad turf control was weakened and some triads shifted their revenue streams to underground as well as legitimate businesses.
Triads use numeric codes to distinguish between ranks and positions within the gang; the numbers are inspired by Chinese numerology based on the I Ching. "489" refers to the "Mountain" or "Dragon" Master (or 'Dragon Head'), while 438 is used for the "Deputy Mountain Master", a "432" indicates "Grass Slipper" rank and the Mountain Master's proxy, "Incense Master", who oversees inductions into the Triad, and "Vanguard", who assists the Incense Master. "426" refers to a "military commander", also known as a "Red Pole", overseeing defensive and offensive operations, while "49" denotes the position of "soldier" or rank-and-file member. The "White Paper Fan" (415) provides financial and business advice, and the "Straw Sandal" (432) functions as a liaison between different units. "25" refers to an undercover law enforcement agent or spy from another triad, and has become popularly used in Hong Kong as a slang for "informant". "Blue Lanterns" are uninitiated members, equivalent to Mafia associates and, as such, do not have a number designation.
Similar to the Italian mafia or the Japanese yakuza, Triad members tend to be subject to initiation ceremonies. A typical ceremony takes place at an altar dedicated to Guan Yu, with incense and an animal sacrifice, usually a chicken, pig or goat. After drinking a mixture of wine and blood of the animal or the candidate, the member will pass beneath an arch of swords while reciting the triad's oaths. The paper on which the oaths are written will be burnt on the altar to confirm the member's obligation to perform his duties to the gods. Three fingers on the left hand will be raised as a binding gesture.
The Triad initiate is required to adhere to "the 36 oaths."
Tongs are similar to triads except that they originated among early immigrant Chinatown communities independently, rather than as extensions of modern triads. The word literally means "social club," and Tongs are not specifically underground organizations. The first Tongs formed in the second half of the 19th century among the more marginalized members of early immigrant Chinese American communities for mutual support and protection from nativists. These Tongs modeled themselves on triads, but they were established without clear political motives, yet they become involved in criminal activities such as extortion, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, human trafficking, murder and prostitution. In recent years, some Tongs have reformed to eliminate their criminal elements and have become civic-minded organizations.
Triad activities were also present in Chinese communities around Southeast Asia. When Malaysia and Singapore, which have the region's largest population of ethnic Chinese, first became Crown Colonies, secret societies and triads were much more common and controlled the local communities similar to the way the Sicilian Mafia did through extortion of "protection money" and illegal money lending. Many conducted blood rituals such as drinking one another's blood as a sign of brotherhood, while others engaged in running opium dens and brothels.
Remnants of these former gangs and societies still exist. Due to the efforts of the government in both countries to reduce crime, such societies have largely faded away from the public eye, especially in Singapore.
Triads are also active in other regions with significant overseas Chinese populations, apart from the Chinese mainland, Macau, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Triads are known to be operating in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Argentina. They are often involved in helping immigrants enter countries illegally. Shanty & Mishra (2007) estimate that annual profits from narcotics is $200 billion; revenues from human trafficking into Europe and the United States are believed to amount to $3.5 billion per year.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2010)|
The Organized Crime and Triad Bureau (OCTB) is a division within the Hong Kong Police Force that is responsible for triad countermeasures. The OCTB and Criminal Intelligence Bureau work together with the Narcotics Bureau and Commercial Crime Bureau to process data and information collected by their operation units to counter triad leaders. Other departments involved in countering triad activities include Customs and Excise Department, Immigration Department and ICAC. They cooperate with the police to impede triads' expansions and other organized gangs. Police actions regularly target organised crime, including raids on entertaining establishments under control of triads, and the placing of operatives deep undercover – this was the central theme to the Infernal Affairs trilogy.
The Guns and Gangs Unit of the Toronto Police Service is a specialized command detective unit that is responsible for handling triads. Formerly the Asian Gang Unit of the Metro Toronto Police was responsible for dealing with triad related matters, but a larger unit was created to deal with the broader array of ethnic gangs in the city.
At the national (and in some cases provincial) level, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's Organized Crime Branch is responsible for investigating all gang related activities including triads. The Canada Border Services Agency Organized Crime units works with the RCMP to detain and remove non-Canadian triad members.
Primary laws in addressing the triad problem are the Societies Ordinance and the Organized & Serious Crimes Ordinance. The former was enacted in 1949 to outlaw triads in Hong Kong. It stipulates that any person convicted of professing or claiming to be an office bearer or managing or assisting in the management of a triad can be fined up to HK$1 million and a prison term of up to 15 years.
Since the 1970s, the power of triads has further diminished due to the establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 1974. The agency targeted brazen corruption within police ranks linked with triads. Being a member of a triad is already an offence punishable by fines ranging from HK$100,000 to HK$250,000 and three to seven years imprisonment under an ordinance enacted in Hong Kong in 1994, and aims to provide the police with special investigative powers, to provide heavier penalties for organized crime activities and to authorize the courts to confiscate the proceeds of such crimes.
The Organized Crime and Law Enforcement Act was created to deal with organized crime and gives a tool for police forces in Canada to handle organized criminal activities. This Act enhances the general role of the Criminal Code of Canada (with amendments to deal with organized crime) in dealing with triad criminal activities.
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