22 held in raids on Wo Hop To
POLICE yesterday arrested 22 suspected key figures in a crackdown on the Wo Hop To triad gang.
The operation against the gang - one of the most active on Hong Kong Island - began in January in anticipation of its biannual elections last month.
At least four top-ranking leaders were arrested in territory-wide raids from 10 pm on Wednesday.
Eighteen other Wo Hop To members were also held, most on Hong Kong Island and one as he tried to enter into China at the Lowu border crossing.
Police said 'concrete evidence' had been obtained to charge eight of them with triad-related offences.
The Wo Hop To is known to be particularly active in Wan Chai, Western and Aberdeen. It is involved in gambling, drug trafficking and extortion.
The head of the Hong Kong Island anti-triad unit, Superintendent Man Shing-hon, said police had been monitoring the leadership change closely to collect evidence for the arrests.
'They have kept a very low profile and taken a secret approach in the takeover process to protect themselves,' Mr Man said.
The triad's senior members held a secret meeting in Aberdeen on February 18, and spent only a few minutes in a temple in Western district for a traditional ritual ceremony soon after midnight.
Then they went to Macau, possibly to celebrate, and returned either directly to Hong Kong or through China.
The usual dinner celebration in Hong Kong was cancelled.
'We decided to take action yesterday as we believed they had not arranged any celebration for the biannual election as usual,' Mr Man said.
Police triad expert Yip Pau-fook said the Wo Hop To was very active and was an arch-rival of Sun Yee On on Hong Kong Island.
'I don't know exactly the scale of the society, but we have information on more than 10,000 Wo Hop To members in our records,' said Mr Yip.
He said it was getting more difficult to take action against triads because many of them had simplified the traditions.
'Their traditional ceremonies are becoming very simple to avoid leaving any evidence of triad membership,' he said.
Earlier this year, police cracked down on the Tsim Sha Tsui faction of the Sun Yee On, arresting many suspected ringleaders.