27, most teens, held in triad blitz

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 January, 2009, 12:00am

Officers raid 30 flats across HK Island

Twenty-seven suspected triad members, most of them teens and one just 14, were arrested in raids on two triad societies - Sun Yee On and Wo Hop To - in Eastern and Western districts yesterday after an investigation into a triad recruitment drive.

More than 100 anti-triad officers began raiding 30 flats on Hong Kong Island at 5am. As well as making the arrests, they seized 13 beef knives, eight water pipes and illegal drugs.

A police source said most of the arrested were teenagers. 'About 70 per cent of them are students. The youngest one is a 14-year-old boy.' The source said the others included several core members of the triads.

'The Wo Hop To triad society is active on the whole of Hong Kong Island and Sun Yee On is active in Eastern District,' the source said.

The raids followed a months-long investigation into the two gangs after intelligence showed they were recruiting schoolchildren to expand membership, according to police.

Juveniles were approached by triad members in playgrounds and in games centres mainly in Eastern and Western districts. The source said victims who refused to join were threatened with physical violence.

'Some triad members are students. They were suspected to have recruited schoolmates into triads,' the source said. 'Victims were ordered to pay HK$3.60 in lai see to become members. Unlike in the past, they did not have to attend an official ceremony to become a member.'

Police said no undercover agents had been used in the operation, which began in September.

'We believe the operation has dealt a heavy blow against the two triads,' the source said.

The 27 males, aged 14 to 39, were arrested on suspicion of being triad members, recruiting people into a triad society, attending triad meetings, wounding and possession of offensive weapons and illegal drugs, a police spokesman said. The suspects were being questioned and no one had been charged. The operation, co-ordinated by the anti-triad section of the Hong Kong Island crime unit, was continuing last night.

The leader of a Caritas outreach social workers team, Forest Chan Chi-sing, said he knew a nine-year-old boy, a Primary Four pupil, who claimed to be a triad member.

'Nowadays, more juveniles claim to be triad members and some youths even offer themselves to join triad societies,' he said. 'They think no one will bully them and they may get advantages after declaring themselves as triad members.'

He said the government should do more to educate youngsters that claiming to be a triad member was a criminal offence, and police should crack down more on triads.