'Godfather' saluted

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 August, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 August, 1994, 12:00am

EVEN the President of Taiwan has paid his respects to the ''Godfather of Chinatown'', sending a wreath and telling his top US officials to view the body of the late Benny Ong.

Hundreds of members of Ong's Hip Sing Association, and other tongs both friendly and rival, continued to file through the doors of the funeral home for the second day of the wake.

As plain-clothes police watched the scene closely, the mourners prepared for Ong's funeral today and billed as the biggest New York Chinatown funeral in recent memory.

Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui's wreath, on view at the wake, read: ''Deep loss of an esteemed community leader.'' Taipei's main representative in the city, Tzu Dan-wu, attended.

While it might seem unstatesmanlike for the leader of a prosperous, democratising nation to pay his condolences to a man linked in congressional reports to several decades of violent organised crime, Mr Lee's gesture was seen as entirely natural to the mourners.

Despite its links to the Flying Dragons street gang, 87-year-old Ong's Hip Sing was always been fiercely pro-Kuomintang.