SSecret societies and criminal organizations have been part of the Chinese social and political fabric since the beginning of the 20th century. But we’re not talking about the next hit Shanghai crime syndicate film, it’s a real story of Chinese politicians and criminals working in tandem.
On Monday, Macau police arrested Alvin Chau, head of the junket and CEO of Suncity, one of the world’s largest junket companies listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The Junket System is a gaming operation in Macau that attracts high-end gamers from all over the world.
According to Chinese state media, Chau’s operations include 12,000 gaming agents and 80,000 members. He was arrested for setting up overseas gambling platforms and is said to have ties to the Macau “triad,” a term used to refer to Chinese transnational organized crime groups.
After Chau’s arrest, Suncity stock on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange plunged 48% at a time when other gambling-related stocks also collapsed recently.
In 2019, Chau was banned from entering Australia after concerns over “large-scale money laundering activities” as part of its partnership with Crown Resorts, Australia’s largest video game group. .
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Chinese secret societies
The history of Chinese politicians intermingling with secret societies dates back to Chinese nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen who was closely associated with underground networks in Shanghai. Chiang Kai Shek, Sun Yat-sen’s successor, relied on a secret society called “Green Gang” to collect information on the Communists.
After coming to power in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cracked down on the “green gang” for its links to the Chiang Kai Shek Kuomintang and its involvement in the anti-Communist attack on Shanghai in 1927.
The CCP expelled the Chinese triads and secret societies from the mainland during the Chinese Civil War. These companies and triads moved to Hong Kong and Taiwan, where they continued to operate.
The CCP’s relationship with the Triads began to change under Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader between 1978 and 1989.
On May 23, 1982, Deng Xiaoping met with Hong Kong tycoons Li Ka-shing and Henry Fok to establish links with the city triads. Deng said in 1984 that “not all triads are bad, many of them were good and many are patriots.” The idea of patriotic triads legitimized criminal organizations and gave them immunity to operate.
The key to understanding the CCP’s relationship with the Triads is through the United Front’s Department of Labor. United Front is a political tool used by the CCP to create divisions while carrying out its agenda through non-governmental entities and affiliated individuals. United Front groups can often be Chinese citizens living outside of China as students or workers.
The United Front’s department and Chinese intelligence agencies work in tandem with triads to run their businesses, launder money and seek political influence in the West. United Front organizations generally hide behind harmless non-governmental organizations. They are also called “magic weapon” by the party.
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Over the years, the CCP has come to use these organizations to achieve various political goals in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and overseas Chinese communities. The CCP has used the triads to attack civil society activists, journalists and other opponents in Hong Kong.
In Taiwan, a party called the China Unification Promotion Party (CUPP) was founded by organized crime member Chang An-Le, who sought to bow to Beijing’s auction. Chang An-Le, also known as the “White Wolf,” is a convicted extortioner, heroin trafficker, and kidnapper who has close ties to the CCP princes. The “Bamboo Union” – the original Chang triad – moved drugs and guns to the area.
Chang does not hide his ties to the CCP and admitted to having met the party princes. He openly called on China to invade Taiwan militarily. “Because my country is China and I am on the side of the Chinese Communist Party, so these Taiwanese laws cannot apply to me,” Chang said in the past.
Members of the ruling Progressive Democratic Party in Taiwan called on the judiciary to indict Chang An-Le for endangering Taiwan’s National Security Law. He is one of the many actors in Taiwan who have ties to Beijing and seek to create a more favorable political environment for the CCP in Taiwan.
Canada has been one of the “permissive targets” of the triads, the Chinese intelligence services and the United Front department. Canadian journalist Sam Cooper described in his recent book the story of how Chinese intelligence, gambling, the triads and money launderers operated in public. Real estate and casino games in Canada are targets of Chinese secret services and money laundering triads.
“The implication is that Chinese organized crime networks don’t just launder drug money through casino junkets. They also use casinos and real estate investments to generate money for Chinese Communist Party operations in North America, including political bribes. In intelligence terms, this would be called threat financing, “Cooper writes in his book,”Willful blindness: how a network of narcos, tycoons, and CCP agents infiltrated the West. ‘
China’s presence in Canada and Australia has given the CCP access to the corridors of power in the West. United Front groups have a habit of harassing overseas Chinese who denounce the CCP. “The Chinese intelligence services have created ‘shell companies’ in Canada solely for the purpose of espionage, including the theft of trade secrets … The companies have regular contact with the gangs of the triad,” the book adds. by Cooper.
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The recently arrested Alvin Chau is no stranger to the party and was a member of the Guangdong provincial committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPC). The Conference is a political advisory body of the CPC and a central element of the United Front system.
In 2011, Chau entered the film production business with Sun Entertainment Culture Company. The company has produced films such as the “From Vegas to Macau” trilogy (2014, 2015, 2016) and “Kung Fu Jungle” (2014). Chau’s films often mix Chinese patriotism with gambling, deception, gangs, and drama. Chinese social media users are now questioning the patriotism of Chau’s films and the role of money laundering in film production.
China’s border controls due to zero Covid policy and strict laws have always made it difficult for Macau’s gambling operations to attract foreign players. There are signs that a coordinated political crackdown may be on the way ahead of the Digital Yuan’s deployment. The licenses granted to casinos in Macau are set to expire in June 2022.
The world only recently learned of the intersection between the CCP, Chinese intelligence, the triads, and gaming operations. Xi Jinping may be trying to eliminate the cross influence of the triad and CCP factions, this which can become a cause of problems for him.
The author is a freelance columnist and journalist. He was previously a Chinese media reporter for the BBC World Service. Opinions are personal.
(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)
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