Social Problems in Chinatown - Gangs


In modern times, competing Asian street gangs and organized crime, such as the tongs and the Hong Kong-based triads, continue to plague the metropolitan Chinatowns worldwide where Triads have their operations, including London, United Kingdom; San Francisco, California; New York City, Sydney, Australia, and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Tongs are Chinese secret societies, which were prominent in the 19th and 20th centuries. There have been 'Tong wars' or Chinatown in-fighting, between the Tong groups in the older Chinatowns. A tong war occurred in a Chinatown could be spread to other Chinatown communities. Initially, many Chinatown gangs were formed to defend the community from the lo fahn (Cantonese word and transliteration for "Caucasians") but later turned on members of their own ethnic community. This had a huge impact on the gang.

The Chinatowns of the 1960s experiences a rapid influx of working-class immigrants from Hong Kong. Since their inception in the late 1960s, the Hong Kong-born immigrant and mostly unemployed Wah Ching (華青) gang members began a campaign of harassment and assault of white tourists in San Francisco's Chinatown, which ultimately proved to be a predicament for the tourism-minded conservative Chinatown elite of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (the biggest problem is that the CCBA simply advocated tougher policing against the gangs rather than resolve Chinatown social inequalities at the core). In North America, Chinese American street gangs often have connections with the tongs and triads. Examples of such street gangs include the Joe Boys and Jackson Street Boys, which are named after the major street of San Francisco's Chinatown.

Turf wars have been common in the older Chinatowns. Gang rivalry among Chinatown gangs has sometimes have a high profile. As Chinatowns tend to be tourist attractions, tourists in Chinatowns have sometimes been victims of these gang warfare crimes. In 1977, a shoot-out occurred in a San Francisco Chinatown restaurant (where the rival gang were normally based), in which two tourists and several waiters were murdered by stray gunfire in a botched assassination attempt on a Wah Ching gang member. This incident is notoriously known as the Golden Dragon Massacre and it mobilized the San Francisco Police Department to create an Asian crime unit.

Seattle's generally pacific International District-Chinatown was rocked by one particularly spectacular incident of gang violence in February 1983, when the Wah Mee massacre killed 13 people at an illegal gambling club, among them several prominent restaurant owners.

In the late 1970s, some amount of the ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam would also start gangs.

In the Los Angeles Chinatown of 1984, Chinese Vietnamese gang members shot and murdered a white Los Angeles Police Department officer in the line of duty and wounded his Japanese American partner. The officers were responding to a silent robbery alarm at a Chinatown jewelry store and a shoot-out ensued. The wounded Japanese American officer returned fire, killing three of the five suspects. A three-year trial concluded in 1988, and the remaining killers received the verdict of life imprisonment.

Suburban Chinatowns are also not entirely immune from extortion. In the so-called "new Chinatown" of Richmond, British Columbia, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested six male suspects in connection with extortion that involved assaulting a Chinese Canadian waiter and then vandalizing the restaurant in 1999. In the summer of 2003, in the Los Angeles County community of San Gabriel, California, Asian gunmen shot out a window of a Chinese restaurant, allegedly to send a message to the owner to pay protection; instead, they killed a waitress, a Mainland Chinese immigrant. Triad extortion activity is also rife in several Chinatowns of Sydney, Australia. Chinese restaurants have especially been targeted in Sydney.

Many Chinese victims in Chinatown are prostitutes and reluctant to report any incidents of gang harassment to authorities because they fear possible retaliation. First-generation immigrants, who often speak limited English, may be in the country illegally or have a general distrust of the police or of government in general. Many immigrants emigrated from countries where the police routinely intimidate the population – such as with Communist China and Taiwan under President Chiang Kai-shek's martial law – or where the government persecuted the population, as with Vietnam. In Hong Kong, until recently, the police were often corrupt and ineffective.

Also compounding to the problem is the fact that Chinese immigrant restaurateurs and storekeepers sometimes dismiss the exploitative extortion as another cost of doing business in the form of a "business tax" and thus simply shrug it off. In Hong Kong and many areas of Mainland China, extortion is figured into the cost of running a business, and many immigrant business owners presume that it is the same in their newly adopted country as well.

Read more about this topic:  Social Problems In Chinatown

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