William Norman Grigg
The New American, September 1, 1997
While the Clinton Administration is working diligently to knit together the economic, military, and law enforcement systems of the U.S. and Red China, the Beijing government is putting the finishing touches on what crime reporter Frederic Dannen refers to as "a cooperation pact between the triad societies and the Communist Party ... a dreadful alliance between the world's largest criminal underground and the world's last great totalitarian power...." The triads, according to W.P. Morgan's authoritative work Triad Societies in Hong Kong, "might be defined as Chinese secret societies whose members, bound by oaths of blood brotherhood, are pledged to assist one another and further the particular aims of their societies irrespective of the moral and civil laws of the country wherein they operate." The Hong Kong-based crime fraternities have affiliates in nearly every sizeable ethnic Chinese community throughout North America. According to the FBI, ethnic Chinese gangs are active in at least 16 states.
Dannen writes that creating an alliance with the Chinese underworld "was part of Deng Xiaoping's reunification plan for Hong Kong from the very beginning, and dates from the early 1980s, when China and Britain were negotiating the return of Hong Kong to the mainland." In fact, sub rosa collaboration with the Chinese underworld has been a strategic tool of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since the 1920s. "Chinese organized crime groups have always been an integral part of the Red Chinese strategic apparatus," observes national security affairs consultant Joseph Douglass. Dr. Douglass explained to THE NEW AMERICAN that "before the revolution, the CCP used organized crime to subvert Chinese society through drug trafficking and violence, and it has continued to use the underground -- particularly the triads -- to carry out similar activities on a global scale, including within the U.S. These activities will escalate as a result of the reversion of Hong Kong."
In May of this year, Wong Man-fong, the former deputy secretary-general of Red China's Xinhua news agency, admitted that in the early 1980s he had "befriended" Hong Kong's triad bosses at Beijing's behest. "Beijing explained to the triad bosses that they would be left alone by Chinese authorities if they ceased their activities during the handover," former Hong Kong legislator James To told THE NEW AMERICAN. "So the triad leaders called a temporary truce in order to 'give face' to Beijing while the world was watching."
But the cooperation between Hong Kong's crime bosses and Beijing's autocrats is hardly limited to matters of political housekeeping. Mr. To, who was the chairman of the legislature's internal security committee before being removed by Beijing in July, explained that "China's Public Security Bureau and the other mainland law enforcement agencies are more like business partners than enemies of the triads. There are security and intelligence personnel involved in all of the triad's illegal activities, including drug smuggling, alien smuggling, and vice. Some of this simply reflects the personal corruption on the part of some isolated officials, but a lot of it takes place with the connivance of high-ranking people in the Party."
"Like their Italian counterparts, Chinese gangsters are the progeny of a criminal conspiracy that is centuries old and whose traditions include an inviolate oath of secrecy that has changed little over hundreds of years," writes New York Daily News crime reporter William Kleinknecht in his book The New Ethnic Mobs. "[The] triad tradition gives Chinese crime groups in this country a strong international connection that not only helps them smuggle heroin across the globe, but gives them a ready source of new recruits, especially since Asians continue to immigrate to this country in large numbers.... Indeed, none of the other emerging crime groups has the national scope of the Chinese."
Triad-based gangs are "deeply wired into the civic life of American Chinatowns," continues Kleinknecht. "Their sponsors are often the most powerful business interests in the Chinese community, an alliance that gives them a patina of respectability...." No other ethnic crime syndicate can boast such a diversified portfolio of illicit operations: Chinese gangs have been implicated in murder, extortion, prostitution, and alien smuggling, in addition to heroin trafficking.
Although the primary victims of Chinese mobsters are law-abiding Chinese immigrants, triad-linked youth gangs in California and the Pacific Northwest occasionally undertake "home invasion robberies" -- paramilitary assaults on suburban homes.
Since 1949, the triads have been headquartered in Hong Kong, and have coalesced into three dominant groups: The 14K, Sun Ye On, and Wo Group (which includes the Wo Shing Wo and Wo Hop To societies). The largest of the triad societies is the Sun Ye On, whose members, according to Dannen, are now required to swear an oath of allegiance to the People's Republic of China. In 1993, Tao Siju, China's minister of public security, welcomed a delegation from the Sun Ye On triad, which controls most of Hong Kong's narcotics industry. "The members of triads are not always gangsters," explained China's chief law enforcement officer. "As long as they are patriots ... we should respect them." Minister Tao reiterated his praise of the Sun Ye On in April 1996 and publicly admitted that the Party employed gangsters to provide security for Chinese officials.
In the Maoist Manner
Shortly after Minister Tao met with Hong Kong's chief drug lords, he inaugurated "Operation Strike Hard," an unprecedented campaign against crime that resulted in 3,500 criminal executions. According to the May 28th San Francisco Chronicle, the crackdown included a surrender ultimatum to drug dealers in Guangdong province, who had been given a green light by middle- and lower-echelon Party officials to expand the cultivation of opium and its refinement into heroin. The crackdown, which cleared out the "private" drug dealers and left their assets in the hands of the state, followed a time-honored Maoist formula.
"In 1928 Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese communist leader, instructed one of his trusted subordinates, Tan Chen-lin, to begin cultivating opium on a grand scale," writes Dr. Joseph Douglass in Red Cocaine: The Drugging of America. "Mao had two objectives: obtaining exchange for needed supplies and 'drugging the white [anti-communist] region'.... Mao's strategy was simple: use drugs to soften a target area. Then, after a captured region was secured, outlaw the use of all narcotics and impose strict controls to ensure that the poppies remained exclusively an instrument of the state for use against its enemies.... As soon as Mao had totally secured mainland China in 1949, opium production was nationalized and trafficking of narcotics, targeted against non-communist states, became a formal activity of the new communist state, the People's Republic of China."
The Chinese underworld played a critical role in Beijing's global smuggling network. More than two decades ago, intelligence analyst A.H. Stanton Candlin documented that Mao Tse-tung's "psycho-chemical offensive" against the West relied on "the Chinese underworld, both on the mainland and among the overseas Chinese," to provide the "deadly nexus connecting Chinese communism with organized crime in Europe and the Americas...." A more recent tour of that "deadly nexus" was provided in the August 1992 Senate testimony of a 14K defector who identified himself only as "Mr. Ma." An initiate at 14, Ma joined the Hong Kong police force, where he began building a network of protection rackets. After leaving the police he established himself in prostitution and loan-sharking. With the connivance of Nicaraguan diplomats, Ma eventually assembled a narcotics smuggling ring that brought heroin into the U.S. concealed in shipping containers bound for New York.
Even as Beijing continues to pump heroin through its global network, the regime is supporting global drug-control efforts. Zhu Entao, the Chinese Interpol chief, declared on June 24th that China "has joined the global fight against drug crime" and supports international cooperation "in battling international and regional drug trafficking." Last November China hosted a forum sponsored by the UN Drug Control Program, which is preparing for a global "drug control" conference in 1998; this illustrates that Beijing is applying both prongs of Mao's narco-subversion strategy on a global scale.
The Beijing-aligned Chinese underworld carries out other varieties of subversion as well. In his book The New War (which couples a useful analysis of international organized crime with a fatally flawed prescription for the problem), Senator John Kerry (D-MA) observes that officials in the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) "are selling immense stores of Chinese- and Soviet-manufactured weapons -- Kalashnikovs, AK-47s, grenades, rocket launchers, etc. -- to the triads, tongs, and Asian entrepreneurs who distribute them to criminals and terrorists worldwide."
This is exactly the variety of illicit commerce engaged in by the business associates of White House coffee guest Wang Jun. The China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), Wang's employer of record, is a Beijing-controlled company ideally suited to the needs of gunrunners and heroin smugglers, and it was a COSCO ship -- the Empress Phoenix -- that was intercepted with a cargo of AK-47s bound for California street gangs. Recall that the Clinton Administration actively intervened to arrange for COSCO to lease California's Long Beach Naval Yards which features the nation's largest container port (although the lease agreement was later suspended by a local judge); it also extended a $138 million, taxpayer-guaranteed loan to COSCO to construct three new container ships.
Drug and Alien Smuggling
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which the Clinton Administration lists among its proudest achievements, has been a tremendous boon to drug smugglers and criminals of all varieties -- including the Beijing-aligned Chinese mob. The May 5th edition of ABC's Nightline reported that since NAFTA was signed in December 1993, "some 12,000 trucks a day have freely come into this country from Mexico, largely uninspected for safety, many carrying, along with televisions, computers and fresh produce, massive amounts of cocaine and heroin." This was not an unanticipated development. A Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) intelligence report completed before the NAFTA vote indicated that the accord would be, in the words of former DEA agent Phil Jordan, "a deal made in narco heaven," and drug cartels began buying up business fronts along the border to take advantage of the dramatic upsurge in uninspected commerce. However, according to Jordan, DEA officials were told by the Administration that the impact of NAFTA on drug enforcement "was a subject we could not discuss" prior to ratification of the agreement.
Nor is the Chinese-backed heroin trade the only illicit commerce that has benefited from NAFTA; the breakdown of the border inspection system has been beneficial to alien smugglers as well. Rutgers professor Ko-Lin Chin, a recognized authority on Chinese organized crime, pointed out to THE NEW AMERICAN, "The Mexico route is the most reliable one for alien smugglers. Although most smugglers still prefer to use the air route, the detection rate is the highest using that method. The 'snakeheads' [alien smugglers] like to say that Mexico is by far the most reliable route."
Chin, who recently published a major academic study of alien smuggling, explained that the so-called "big snakeheads" establish a base in the U.S. and then "go back to China to work with the Public Security Bureau (PSB). They will line up smuggling routes, arrange for transportation, coordinate with people at the transit points, and recruit the immigrants. If the Mexico route is selected, the immigrants are shipped to Baja, California, where the snakeheads put them in touch with coyotes [Mexican alien smugglers] to guide them across the border." Since 1980, at least 200,000 Chinese immigrants -- most of them from Fuijan province -- have passed through this underground, at a price of at least $30,000 per person.
Coming to America
For Chinese officials, this human commerce serves many useful functions, according to Chin: "It helps alleviate unemployment, it helps them jettison their 'surplus' population, and it provides them with funds to use in building up their own infrastructure, since the Chinese who are sent to the U.S. are required to send money back to China. The officials also get a percentage of the fee each immigrant pays to the snakeheads." Furthermore, observed Chin, "The authorities don't regard the gangsters who get involved in any of this as criminals, because they're working on behalf of the government. I've interviewed many PSB officials who have been involved in these networks, and they freely admitted that they had helped the 'big snakeheads' to move tens of thousands of aliens into the U.S."
Nor do the desperate immigrants find themselves free of the Chinese authorities once they take up residence in the U.S. "The really horrible thing about these networks is the ma jai, the 'little soldiers' who act as enforcers and debt collectors in the various Chinatowns over here," explained Chin. "They're the young gangsters who collect the fees and maintain 'order' in Chinatown."
The ma jai are also used by Beijing as secret police, according to Justin Yu of the Chinese-language World Daily. "In the U.S. the Red Chinese government and their security forces use triad groups to infiltrate and intimidate the Chinese community," Yu told THE NEW AMERICAN. "This has been going on since at least the mid-1980s, and it resulted in a real crime wave in New York. It's still going on in San Francisco and in other places where there is a high concentration of ethnic Chinese. The gangsters intimidate ethnic Chinese who are critical of the regime. They attack them on the streets, vandalize their property, and use other tactics to punish and silence them."
Chin believes that the violent tactics employed by the ma jai help explain why the latest wave of immigrants from China "are publicly supportive of the communist government, whatever their private opinions might be." The June 30th celebration of "Hong Kong Restoration Day" in New York's Chinatown displayed the clout of Beijing's political machine. According to the New York Daily News, "roughly 5,000 Chinese patriots and supporters of communism" gathered to chant pro-Beijing slogans and applaud as Huasun Qin, Red China's representative to the UN, gave a speech predicting that Taiwan would soon be "reunified" with the mainland regime.
Chinese authorities have found other ways to capitalize on immigrant smuggling. For instance, Yu explained, "The Chinese consulate in New York has been selling counterfeit passports for more than 15 years." According to Yu, the bogus passports are obtained from Chinese gangsters and sold by consulate officials for about $2,000 apiece. "[Consul General] Qui Sheng-Yun is making millions of dollars off of counterfeit passports produced by Asian crime groups and sold to illegal immigrants," Yu declared. "This kind of thing is going on at other Chinese consulates as well, and it raises all kinds of money for the PRC. The communists can practically run their operations here on the money they make from activities like the false document trade. Some of that money is used by the communists to contribute to political campaigns of candidates at all levels, from dog catcher all the way to the gubernatorial level."
Power of the Princelings
For all the corruption and violence which result from the labors of the triad gangs, Yu maintained, "the real gangsters behind all of this are the 'princelings' who are running China's political and economic system. They're completely without morals; all they care about is making money and advancing the Party's interest. They're the ones who control the People's Liberation Army and the PSB, just as they control the triads in Hong Kong and many of the street gangs over here. And they're the ones who are using the money they make through crime and slave labor to influence the American political system, including the last presidential campaign."
Like "post-Soviet" Russia, Yu explained to THE NEW AMERICAN, "China is essentially a gangster state" -- and, as with Russia, the Clinton Administration has allied itself with the gang leaders in order to combat "global crime." During an April 10th Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, James Milford Jr., acting Deputy Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, boasted, "Currently, there is joint law enforcement training being conducted with the Chinese in sophisticated law enforcement techniques which will assist them in becoming better equipped to build cases on controlling the heroin trade...."
Yu is not optimistic about joint Sino-U.S. law enforcement initiatives. "The Chinese authorities are more than willing to cooperate in fighting organized crime, since it gives them legitimacy," he pointed out. "The PSB and the other law enforcement organs want to be recognized as partners with American law enforcement bodies, particularly for purposes of domestic propaganda. But cooperation of this sort will just enhance the ability of the intelligence organs and improve their ability to subvert our own security. The government and the underworld are part of the same gang, and we shouldn't forget that Beijing still regards the U.S. as its 'principal adversary.'"
Globo-Cop on the Take
Just as menacing as the threat of Asian organized crime -- or international crime in general -- is the solution being advanced by enthusiasts of "world order." "The last five years has seen the creation of an international criminal elite that is unprecedented in history," notes Dr. Joseph Douglass. "The activities of that elite have worked to subvert international law and the sovereignty of independent states. We have also seen a concomitant movement toward a global law enforcement regime that also subverts the independence of nations."
Although many "experts" contend that only globalized law enforcement can deal effectively with international organized crime, Dr. Douglass disagrees: "As national boundaries come down, the barriers that once impeded the growth of international organized crime are removed, and the result is an open door for the most ruthless criminal element. We've certainly seen that in Europe as it moves toward political and economic union, and we're seeing that here with NAFTA as well."
While Dr. Douglass allows that "case-by-case cooperation with foreign law enforcement agencies may be necessary," he warns that "consolidation of law enforcement bodies actually simplifies the task of corrupting them -- the criminals have just one target to infiltrate, rather than several. When a 'beat cop' goes bad you can find ways of dealing with him, but where can we go if 'globo-cop' goes on the take?"