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Crime in Hong Kong

Who is Hong Kong’s alleged triad leader ‘Shanghai Boy’ Kwok Wing-hung?

He has been arrested several times in recent years, but escaped charge. And the controversial character certainly has a distinctive look

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 7:03pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 November, 2017, 9:04pm

Famed for his 70s-style sunglasses and bowl haircut, controversial businessman Kwok Wing-hung, popularly known by his nickname “Shanghai Boy”, was back in the news on Wednesday. He was arrested by drug police at a flat in Repulse Bay, on the south of Hong Kong Island, on suspicion of laundering more than HK$100 million.

1. Who is “Shanghai Boy” Kwok Wing-hung?

Kwok is neither a boy nor from Shanghai. He is 59 years old and was born in Hong Kong. There were media reports that he got the nickname because his father looked Shanghainese. Other reports said his father really was from Shanghai. Kwok is known for his signature bowl haircut, which he once claimed was an homage to his idol, kung fu star Bruce Lee. He is often seen wearing a Chinese tunic and sunglasses.

2. Why is he a big deal in Hong Kong?

Depending on who you ask, Kwok is either a controversial self-made businessman, a big player in the local underworld, or a former top leader of the Wo Shing Wo triad society. He once told a local magazine that he started working as a hotel doorman to support himself at the age of 12. He is understood to have led the Wo Shing Wo from 1998 to 2000. Sources have said he is still a faction leader, with great influence in the group.

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3. How did he first come to everyone’s attention?

Kwok became known to the public in March 2012 when there were media reports that he attended a dinner at a seafood restaurant in Lau Fau Shan, Yuen Long, where aides of Leung Chun-ying, then a candidate in the chief executive election, and several rural leaders were present. The dinner raised questions about whether Leung and his team were colluding with triads. Leung and his supporters said they did not know Kwok and had not invited him. The city’s anti-graft agency later called off an investigation into alleged collusion.

4. What has he been up to since then?

In December 2015, Kwok was punched in the face by a man at a café in The Peninsula hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui, in what was reported to be a dispute over his mistress and financial problems with his Macau gambling business. Kwok later planned a press conference to respond to the much-publicised attack. But the press conference was cancelled at the last minute. According to Kwok’s PR man, “something” had happened to prevent him from showing up.

The following day, more than 200 “wanted” notices appeared in the several locations in Tsim Sha Tsui, including the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the YMCA, and the Star Ferry pier. They offered a HK$5 million reward for anyone who could give Kwok’s whereabouts. At the time, police said they did not know who put the signs up.

Kwok later showed up in Japan in March 2016, where he was interviewed by a Hong Kong magazine. He told the magazine that he was not absconding, only travelling.

5. Has he been arrested before?

Yes. In August 2012, Kwok and two rural leaders were among 130 people arrested in a crackdown against two triad gangs suspected of laundering HK$300 million in ill-gotten gains. He was not charged, and was released unconditionally in 2015.

In July 2016, officers from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau arrested Kwok at the airport on his return from Thailand, in connection will alleged criminal intimidation, conspiracy to wound with intent and conspiracy to blackmail. That investigation is still running. Kwok has been on bail and is required to report to police in January 2018.