Chinatown Gangs

04 September 2019
Aftermath of gang violence at Confucius Plaza, 1981, Photograph taken by Emile Bocian, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection

In the late 1800s, the growing number of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. faced severe discrimination and violence from white Americans and the U.S. government. Requiring support, protection, and advocacy, volunteer benevolent associations began to appear in Chinatowns. Modeled after clans in China, the tongs were organized around hometown, family name, or native dialect. While these groups initially aided with immigrant issues such as housing, employment, and community disputes, the volunteer-run tongs had difficulty financing their community ventures, especially outside of their own membership. As a result, many tongs began to dabble in more profitable criminal activities. Prostitution and human trafficking, as well as gambling and opium, became common trades for the bachelor society gangs. Fights over territories and profits resulted in decades of bloody “tong wars.”

In the early years, the tongs hired “hatchet men” (boo how doy) to carry out hits and fight these turf battles. In New York, the Hip Sing tong and the On Leung tong were the most prominent groups. While the notorious turn-of-the-century tongs have mostly faded into history, their legacy continues in new generations of Chinatown gangs – throughout the 1980s, the Hip Sing-descended Flying Dragons engaged in turf wars with the On Leung-associated Ghost Shadows and the Division Street Boys. In the 2000s, Fujianese gangs like the Fuk Ching (“Snakehead”) smuggle immigrants for high prices and make up the majority of gang life in New York’s Chinatown. While American popular culture has painted the gang violence of Chinatowns as inherent to the “vile, foreign nature” of Chinese, tongs and present day gangs are plainly a result of the oppression suffered by Chinese Americans at the hands of systemic racial discrimination.


早期,堂口雇佣“打手”(boo how doy)来实施战斗和争抢地盘。在纽约,最著名的团体是协胜堂(Hip Sing tong)和安良堂(On Leung tong)。尽管臭名昭著的世纪之交的“堂口”大多已成为历史,但它们的影响在新一代唐人街帮会中延续----在整个20世纪80年代,协胜堂的后代帮派飞龙帮(Flying Dragons)和安良堂的衍生帮派鬼影帮(Ghost Shadows)和地威臣街男孩帮(Division Street Boys)展开地盘争夺战。2000年代,像Fuk Ching(蛇头)这样的福建黑帮以高价偷运移民,构成了纽约唐人街帮派生活的主要部分。尽管美国流行文化将唐人街的帮派暴力描绘成是中国人“恶劣的、外来的本性”的固有特征,但堂口和今天的帮会显然是华裔美国人遭受系统性种族歧视压迫的结果。

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