The Origin of Asian and Chinese Gangs in
Chicago's Chinatown

by Hannah Kim
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Page 5

The Triads have become known world-wide as one of the largest criminal organizations and are also considered to be more complex as well. However, law enforcement officials have many obstacles to overcome in dealing with exposing underground crime links in Chinese gangs. One reason being the social relationship between Chinese and other Asian people called “guanxi,” translated as connections or networks. Guanxi is a social system based on ties between people related by blood or marriage or between those that originate from the same region or speak the same dialect. Asian cultures are based on a system of honor and loyalty creating obligations to one another and against the corrupt political system they were once used to in China (RCMP 1). Another principle, the principle of face, shows that many Chinese do not like to report crimes because it shows that the community has failed, which shames them. Many Asian governments (China, North Korea, and Burma) have used the police as a weapon to suppress political discontents and to protect their powers rather than to enforce social justice. Family ties branch out much farther than the typical North American sense to others that may not be blood related. This presents a problem to law officials because the Asian community does not like to aid police or the government. Another problem for law enforcement officials is not only the cultural clashes that exist between Asians and Americans but the fact that Chinese criminal enterprises are often connected between oceans and countries. These criminal organizations take full advantage of the open national borders and conduct illegal businesses all over the world and if they are caught they can flee to another country and hide. The Chinese are also seen to be very flexible and patient in their business dealings, always considering their options and extremely cautious of their distributing habits. Also, the fact that many Chinese-Americans are bilingual pose another obstacle for the uni-lingual police officers and government officials. “Armed with their large sums of capital and shielded by their legitimate front companies, they have continued enriching themselves through their involvement in illegal business ventures with minimum risk” (Fuk 6). Their “cash poor, income rich, and frugal lifestyle” which was considered to be an economic stabilizing force in Bridgeport has now become one of many problems for law enforcement (Droel).

The Chinese have been a long established community in Chicago, however there still remains a great lack of information and research dealing with their lives in America. No books, movies, or biographies have been written about them compared to the Mafia, which is often glorified in the media. Although there were and are a great deal of Asian gangs that have stemmed from the Tongs and Triads, I was unable to discuss them in any detail because of the lack of information. Most of the research named lists of other Chinese gangs but did not talk specifically about them. Many articles stated the same facts over and over again without giving any kind of new information. I believe that given more time, resources, and a great deal of research this paper could become a book of information, but I tried to keep it limited to what I really knew about Asian criminal links to Chicago, which was not much. My original topic was to deal with second generation gangs, however, not much information was out there, only a paper or so on why they develop. In conclusion, I found that although Chinese and Asian gangs may have originated in Chicago through social institutions, like the social athletic clubs, they are followed and run by a hierarchy and structure that has existed for hundreds of years. Like most minority groups of gangs, the Chinese gangs in Chinatown developed through social isolation and somewhat in part due to strain theory in which people make money any way they can in order to survive. However, no research has been developed on it. Also, Asian gangs may run the same sorts of rackets that other gangs are involved in, however they run them in a different manner and still hold their traditional values and morals. Gangs may seem to be similar in the fact that they participate in similar illegal activities, nevertheless, each gang is different behind closed doors in which old positive morals and values are upheld in the midst of such criminal doings. With more research and information, however, Asian gangs have the potential to become a fascinating topic in terms of gang research, their history and culture cannot be compared to any other.


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