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Triad Society

Chinese Triads consist of two different groups, individuals who avoid violence and individuals who unconditionally seek recognition and financial success. Triads are involved in drug smuggling out of the Golden Triangle and have generated substantial funds from the drug business. The Chinese Triads have been linked to transnational organized crime activities such as human trafficking and drug trafficking. The triads first became widely known during the Qing dynasty, China’s last imperial dynasty, which lasted from 1644 until 1912. The Qing dynasty was led by the Manchus, a non-Chinese people who lived in China’s northeast, a region later called Manchuria. The Qing dynasty was preceded by the Ming Dynasty. The triads first began to organize as part of a patriotic movement to restore Ming rule.

The final subjugation of all South Eastern China to the Manchu dynasty did not take place till 1678-9, that of Formosa not till 1683, up to which latter period the sea-board population had always a place of refuge in that independent, though small, Chinese State. For about 40 years, therefore, after the advent of the Manchu dynasty was proclaimed at Peking, the mountaineers and coastlanders of South Eastern China never felt themselves completely and hopelessly under its sway; and from that date, during a period of 170 years - this very portion of China was the great seat of a formidable political society, best known as the Triad Society, the express object of which has been the expulsion of the barbarian conquerors of their country.

The Hung Men (Hoong Moon) Society was founded in 1631 by Yin Hung-sheng, a Chinese scholar. The main purpose behind the establishment of the secret society was the overthrow of the Manchu (Ching) dynasty and the restorationof the Ming dynasty. Such societies were forbidden in China. Over the years, the secret society spread from north of China further south, and developed several branches, one of which was the Triad, or Triple Harmony Society - one of the most important branches of Hung Men. Triad Societies were popular among the working and rural people of South China.

The name Triad Society, which is a translation of the name San Ho Hin or San ho hwuy, conferred on the organization by Chinese non-members, has been used as the name of the Society so long and so often that it has been adopted as the title, along with that which the members themselves give it, and which is therefore the more correct of the Tim Ti Hin, or Heaven and Earth Association.

During the remaining 40 years' rule of the vigorous, talented, and learned Emperor Kaug he; during the 13 years' reign of his son; and during the 60 years' reign of his grandson, his rival in Chinese political learning and administrative ability, these political societies were only able to exist by the observance of the strictest secrecy, and the adoption of peculiar rules of embodiment and mutual support, which tend to separation of the members from social and family ties. Under the debasing influence of this secrecy and this separation, to which they were compelled during the most brilliant century of the Manchu domination, the members largely degenerated into mere gang-robbers and pirates.

Nevertheless, they had from first to last not ceased to cherish their original principles and objects, summed up in their well known pithy manifesto: "Fan tsing fuh ming. Overthrow the Manchus, re-establish the Mings." [even though comparatively few speakers of the mandarin dialect were members of the Society]. And whenever the opportunity has offered, the seemingly mere bandits and buccaneers evinced a capability to aspire after, and to assume a character and functions essentially political.

The second identified phase of Triad development is the Green Gang period during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The Green Gang development period begins the transition to an organized criminal enterprise. They gradually turned to crime, including the sale of drugs, such as opium, heroin, and cocaine. They gained control of gambling and prostitution rings. Much like mafia groups, members are expected to regard each other as blood brothers. According to some accounts, the triangular triad symbol dated back to the Society of Heaven and Earth created in the 1700s. The triad was used in flags and banners as part of the patriotic movement.

When the British ruled Hong Kong as a colony from 1841 to 1941 and then again after a Japanese occupation of several years until a handover of the colony to China in 1997, secret society members such as the triads were imprisoned under British law. The British apparently referred to some of them as triads because of the triangular symbol that was used by the gangs.

Hong Kong now is the center of triad activity in China, although triad membership there is a criminal offense. As many as 57 triads, varying greatly in size, have been identified in Hong Kong—although only 15 to 20 of those organizations are currently involved in criminal activity.

Sometimes triad gang members who get arrested are the front men, or foot soldiers, for more powerful backers. Take the case in 2015 of Kevin Lau, the former editor-in-chief of the daily Ming Pao, which was considered by many to be Hong Kong’s leading newspaper at the time. Two men attacked Lau with knives not far from his office. The police managed to identify the two and brought them to trial. The two men were convicted and sentenced to 19 years in prison. But it became apparent that the two had Chinese backers who had paid them to do the dirty work but who could not be tracked down.

Compared with the strict hierarchical structure of Italian crime groups, for example, the triads are “loose affiliations in the extreme,” offering full autonomy to members in their selection of criminal activities. Top individuals in the triad structure often have established reputations as legitimate businessmen. All transnational Chinese crime groups do not owe their membership or their structure to the triad model. Narcotics syndicates, for example, may include both members and non-members of a triad. In contrast to the triads, the syndicates tend to be pragmatic assemblages that dissipate and reconfigure over time, making detection more difficult.

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Page last modified: 17-11-2019 19:03:11 ZULU