Started on June 9th, 2019, protests in Hong Kong had sustained over 110 days. It is going strong well into the 70th National Day of Communist China. Shockingly, what started as a protest against an extradition bill continued well into weeks after the bill was canceled. The involvement of triads in Hong Kong in the protest has also attracted international news.
During the latest protests, triad members with white shirts with swords and sticks chasing protesters look as if they are characters in a kung fu movie from Hollywood.
Since Hong Kong’s handover in 1997, the authorities in Hong Kong have relaxed their enforcement toward the triad members. Triad members have extended their business from illegal to legal sectors of the economy. There are currently about 57 triad groups in Hong Kong with 14 of them under police surveillance.
This current development of triad societies are effects brought by socioeconomic changes in Hong Kong. They are behind gambling, drug trade, prostitution, and whatever that could bring them money. They have not always been about money and have had historically been more of a multi-faceted brotherhood organization.
But this is not the first time the triads and mafia members rolled out on the streets as they owned it. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during WWII, triads blocked streets to establish gambling territories. Some of them went as far as to helping the Japanese soldiers to establish comfort stations.
Throughout history in China, triads were involved in every issue as long as they can benefit. The British viewed them as a group that would make Hong Kong impossible to rule if they were allowed to roam free in the city and punished most triad members making their underground activities even more secretive. During the Japanese occupation, most triad members welcomed them as occupiers as anarchy reigned in Hong Kong. As the Imperial Japanese Army came in, the Triads robbed civilians at gunpoints and looted the stores clean. The entire three years of eight months period, not only were civilians living in fear of the Imperial Japanese Army, they were also living in fear of the Triads.
After WWII, Hong Kong was under British ruling again. Triads were again more secretive of their activities. After Mao took over China, triad activities were punishable by law. However, as the latest activities show, some triads are now pro-Beijing as their businesses are depended on Mainland China. However, similar to most issues in Asia, this is not a simple one as most of the triad members are related to KMT in one way of another. 14K was founded by a former Lieutenant-General of Kuomintang.
To learn more about triad activities during WW2, get a copy of Three Year Eight Months: The Forgotten Struggle of Hong Kong During WWII