The Triad is an organized crime gang that originated in China as far back as the 1800s. Typical crimes they commit include drug dealing, gun running, money laundering, operating chop shops, poaching, overfishing, contract killing, counterfeiting, copyright infringement, computer crimes, and robbing banks, jewelry stores, museums, and shopping malls.
They originated as an offshoot of the Tiandihui(Chinese: "Heaven-Earth Society) secret society known as the Sanhehui(Chinese:"Three Harmonies Society") and this is where the name Triad comes from. Originally the Triad was not criminal, but turned to crime after being suppressed by the British in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. They tapered off later in the 1800s as Chinese immigrants in Malaysia and Singapore turned to kongsi, or legal social clubs, for help.
Despite a revival in the chaos of China post World War 2, the gang was suppressed by the Communist Party of China after its rise to power, and thus most leaders moved to Hong Kong, which is now considered the home of the Triads, however they are also active in Taiwan and Macao, and have spread to Chinese populations worldwide; Toronto Police has an Asian Organized Crime Task Force specifically to deal with them, and in 2018, Italian police arrested 33 members of the gang in Italy and Western Europe.
It has many subgroups within Hong Kong and Taiwan, and some non-Chinese cities have more than one subgroup as well. Notable ones include the 14K(Hong Kong), and Bamboo Union(Taiwan). Rodrigo Duterte accused the latter of selling drugs to the Philippines and granting a franchise in that business to Abu Sayyaf; however their leader, "Yao-Yao" denied this accusation.
They have been involved in politics and political violence. Most recently in 2019, in Hong Kong a group of pro-Beijing activists known as the "White Shirts" that assaulted pro-Hong Kong protesters, is rumored to have been made up of triad members. However, they were not always pro-China; in 1989 triads helped smuggle people fleeing the Tiananmen Square Massacre into Hong Kong.
Ranks and structure
The gang's ranks and titles are based on traditional Chinese numerology as described in the book I Ching.
- 489: Mountain Master (Boss)
- 438:Deputy Mountain Master (Deputy), Incense Master (Ceremonies officer, recruitment head), Vanguard (Assistant to the Incensce Master
- 432:Straw Sandal (Liaison)
- 426: Red Pole (Sub-boss/group leader)
- 415: White Paper Fan (Administrative/management)
- 49: Soldier (Ordinary gangsters)