How gang's Big Elephant left the jungle of crime

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 June, 2011, 12:00am


It is hard to believe that a former gangster whose size won him the nickname Big Elephant is afraid to walk the streets at night.

But that's because he fears triad members may target him after he turned his back on a life of crime.

Big Elephant became a member of a secret society in Tseung Kwan O when he was just 13.

He quit school when he was 15 and was involved in theft, blackmail, gang recruitment, vandalism and countless street fights.

A stormy relationship with his family did not help. He said: 'I hated my parents. I was angry at everything they said to me. So I ran away from home when I was 17 and lived with a bunch of youngsters at the top of the machine room in a housing estate car park.'

Big Elephant and his gang lived by stealing. They took food from supermarkets and blankets that people hung out to dry. They picked up a television set and a mattress from the trash and showered at stadiums or sports facilities.

He recalled: 'Back then, I didn't care about consequences. I did what I wanted. I bumped into my family a couple of times on the street and I ran away. I didn't want to see them.'

But his rebellious life ended abruptly when he was arrested and jailed for triad activities.

Appearing in court was a defining moment in his life. He said: 'I called up all my brothers to support me in court. Nobody showed up. It was my parents and my social worker who were there for me.'

Now 19, he has turned his life around and now helps frustrated and angry youngsters who may feel tempted to go down the same road.

Youth officer Kenneth Tsang Ho-him was at Big Elephant's side from the time of his arrest.

He now works with him at the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (HKFYG) Extended Services for Young Night Drifters.

Tsang said of Big Elephant: 'After serving seven months in Lai Chi Kok Rehabilitation Centre, he became a different man.

'He has a job and takes cares of his family. Once in a while he will participate in Night Market, an activity hosted by HKFYG for youths who hang out at night. It shows it is never too late to change.'

The Night Market is open every Friday night at Tseung Kwan O stadium, inviting youths to play sports, dance and hang out.

But Ken Lee Chi-kwong, who also works with the federation, said there were problems when the project's success came to the attention of the triads. Lee said 'About six months ago, a group of 20-somethings began coming to our activities. I guessed they had triad backgrounds.

'They tried to lure youths away from us. It was a tug of war between triads and social workers as we prevented the triads from getting to them. In the end, with help from the police, they were driven away.'

A police spokesman said: 'We have maintained a close liaison with HKFYG to ensure the smooth running of Night Market.

'Appropriate police deployment is placed inside and outside the venue.

In addition, police volunteers have provided Chinese martial arts and free sparring training to youths and given them a positive role model.'

Sai Kung district councilor Christine Fong Kwok-shan said the emergence of triads in Tseung Kwan O was due to building work on the newly completed Shin Ming Estate and the growing youth population.

She said: 'It is a common practice for triads to extort money from building workers and they want to recruit young people. Luckily, police and NGOs were aware of the situation and took measures to prevent triads from growing roots here.'

She added: 'The district needs more sports and community facilities for youths. Engaging them with something meaningful to do will help them stay away from triads. More police patrol at nights will also help.'