Former HK policemen to fight fight Glasgow triads

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 August, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 August, 1993, 12:00am

SCOTLAND'S biggest city is recruiting Cantonese-speaking former Hong Kong police officers to counter its growing triad-related crime problem.

The Chinese population in Glasgow, currently 20,000, is expected to double before 1997, and Strathclyde police are preparing for an anticipated rise in already flourishing triad-related crime.

Scottish police also fear the triads are forging tacit links with Glasgow's notorious underworld hardmen. Detectives say they expect rival gangs to try to carve a share of Glasgow's potentially lucrative extortion and illegal gambling rackets.

But Glasgow police, who have a no-nonsense reputation for cracking down hard on gang activity, say they are ready for anything, thanks to decades of experience in stamping out the city's own brutal razor gangs.

The former Hong Kong police officers are crucial to the anti-triad operation. Two, both Scots, have already joined, and several more are expected to sign up in the coming months.

One said: ''We worked in Hong Kong, and speak Cantonese fluently. That means we know how the triads operate, and what sort of businesses they go after.

''The triads see Glasgow as a prime location, because it can accommodate a large Chinese community - we estimate it will double in the next few years.'' Glasgow's 20,000 Hong Kong Chinese go largely unnoticed among the 700,000 who live in the area.

At the moment, two triad gangs operate in the west of Scotland - the Wo Shing Wo and the Wo On Lok, more commonly known as the Sui Fong. The Sui Fong have traditionally been the smaller force, but have the reputation of being more extreme and violent.

Police have been unable to make in-roads into their activities in the past, because non-Chinese are seldom the victims of triad crime, and the Chinese community tends to remain tight-lipped.

A CID officer said: ''The Hong Kong Chinese here are traditionally distrustful of authority, and would not consider going to the police for help. Because the community is so close-knit, gossip is rife, and people can be scared into silence by word that atriad thug may pay them a visit.

''All too often, crimes are never even reported. When they are, officers turn up at the scene of a crime only to find that nobody saw or heard anything - and nobody speaks English.

''For non-Cantonese-speaking police, it's useless - they tend often to be given names that don't make any sense, but they don't know until later. Making sense of the situation is impossible.

''That's where we come in - we keep our language skills quiet, so we are not well known. We can get a lot of useful information purely because most of the Chinese people assume nobody else can speak their language.

''They get quite a shock when we reply in Cantonese, and often then open up to us a little.''