Campaign Against Highly Secretive Criminal

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The Chinese media have been turning the spotlight on a campaign against highly secretive criminal brotherhoods - known as triads - in mainland China.
Until recently, the government has only acknowledged the existence of triad gangs in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao.

Now the media are reporting that secret societies have spread across the mainland and are responsible for a wave of murders, extortion, trafficking in drugs and migrants, the selling of women and children and prostitution.

Communist party leaders say the gangs even want to overthrow the state.

One triad gang swore oaths of allegiance and drank blood wine

This has triggered a major crackdown against the triad crime syndicates and media reports say over 5,000 members were arrested in the first two months of the campaign which began last September.

Police have been given free reign to seize gang leaders without going through legal procedures, media reports said.

Mao stamped out the triads

Triad gangs, whose origins go back to feudal China, were stamped out in the 1950s and 1960s under Chairman Mao's campaign against ancient Chinese cultural institutions.

The media attribute their current revival to high unemployment, a sharp rise in the migrant population and relaxation of social controls.


But mostly, and particularly worrying for the authorities, they blame what they call "rampant collusion" between the gangs, the police and local party and government officials.

The triads began as secret societies based on principles of clan alliance, personal indebtedness and mutual protection.

The triads took root in Hong Kong in the last century

But in the first half of the 20th century they had become ruthless criminal organisations, first in Hong Kong and then across the Chinese diaspora.

A Hong Kong newspaper has said the triads are now so powerful that local authorities are employing them to carry out the tasks of tax enforcement and requisitioning grain from the peasantry.

The state news agency Xinhua reported that one gang - the "Hua clan" - had terrorised the central province of Henan for seven years, carrying out a string of 300 armed robberies.

Ancient rituals

Until recently, the media have described criminals on the mainland as lacking the cohesion and quasi-religious character of the overseas triads.

Now they say triads on the mainland are rapidly catching up with the Hong Kong and Taiwan gangs.

Some are even adopting ancient triad initation rites.

One large gang swore oaths of allegiance and sealed it by drinking "blood wine".

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