Skip to content

A History of Gangs in Taiwan

Gangs have been a part of Taiwanese society for more than a century, and their history is intertwined with the island’s complex colonial and post-colonial past. Throughout Taiwan’s history, gangs have been involved in a range of criminal activities, from smuggling and extortion to drug trafficking and contract killing.

Early History of Gangs in Taiwan

Gangs have been present in Taiwan since the early 1900s, during the period of Japanese colonial rule. At this time, gangs were known as Shan-Hai-Kuan, and they were involved in a range of criminal activities, including smuggling, extortion, and protection rackets. The Shan-Hai-Kuan were often made up of Taiwanese locals and Chinese immigrants, and they were known for their violent tactics and their willingness to use force to protect their interests.

When the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) took control of Taiwan after World War II, the gang culture continued to thrive. The Kuomintang government viewed gangs as a threat to the country’s stability and launched a program to crack down on them in the 1950s. However, this program was not very successful, and many gangs continued to operate underground.

The Rise of the United Bamboo Gang

The 1970s saw the rise of the United Bamboo Gang (UBG), one of the most powerful and notorious triads in Taiwan’s history. The UBG was formed by former members of the 14K triad from Hong Kong, who moved to Taiwan to establish a new base of operations. The UBG quickly became one of the most powerful gangs in Taiwan and was involved in a wide range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, extortion, and contract killing. The UBG’s influence was so widespread that it was able to penetrate the government, the police, and the military.

The UBG’s rise to power was facilitated by the Kuomintang government’s policy of co-opting certain gangs as allies. The government formed alliances with some of the larger and more powerful gangs, allowing them to operate freely as long as they supported the government’s agenda. The UBG was one of the gangs that benefited from this policy, and it was able to expand its operations with impunity.

However, the government’s policy of co-opting gangs as allies proved to be a double-edged sword. By allowing certain gangs to operate freely, the government inadvertently strengthened the gang’s power and influence. This would come back to haunt the government in the 1980s when it decided to crack down on all gangs and triads.

Government Crackdown on Gangs and Triads

The 1980s was a significant period in the history of Taiwan gangs, marked by a surge in organized crime activities and government crackdowns. During the 1980s, gangs in Taiwan were primarily organized into triads, with the most prominent groups being the United Bamboo Gang and the Four Seas Gang. These groups were involved in a range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, prostitution, and extortion.

Drug trafficking was one of the primary criminal activities of gangs in Taiwan during the 1980s. The United Bamboo Gang and the Four Seas Gang were both heavily involved in the production and distribution of illegal drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine.

Prostitution was another significant area of criminal activity for gangs in Taiwan during the 1980s. Both the United Bamboo Gang and the Four Seas Gang were known to control brothels and other sex-related businesses, extracting profits through extortion and violence.

Gangs also engaged in extortion, using intimidation and violence to extract protection fees from businesses and individuals. This practice was particularly prevalent in industries such as construction, transportation, and entertainment.

In response to the rise of organized crime in Taiwan during the 1980s, the government launched a series of crackdowns on gangs and other criminal organizations. In 1984, the government established the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) to coordinate law enforcement efforts against organized crime.

The government’s efforts were initially successful, resulting in the arrest and conviction of numerous gang leaders and members. However, the government’s crackdowns also led to an increase in violence as gangs fought back against law enforcement efforts.

The UBG was particularly targeted, and many of its members were arrested or killed. However, the UBG’s influence continued to spread, and it established a presence in the United States, where it was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.

In 1989, the Taiwanese government launched a major crackdown on organized crime, resulting in the arrest of over 1,000 gang members and the confiscation of millions of dollars in assets. This crackdown was one of the largest in Taiwanese history and resulted in the dismantling of many of the country’s most prominent gangs. Despite the government’s efforts to crack down on organized crime during the 1980s, gangs in Taiwan continued to operate and thrive.

Evolution of Gangs in the 1990s

During the 1990s, Taiwanese society underwent significant changes, including the transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic system, economic liberalization, and the rise of youth subcultures. These changes had a significant impact on Taiwan’s gangs, which underwent a transformation in their organizational structure and activities.

One of the most significant changes was the rise of a new generation of gang members who were more educated, technologically savvy, and less reliant on traditional criminal activities. This generation of gang members used the internet and social media to organize their activities and recruit new members, and they were involved in a range of white-collar crimes, including fraud, money laundering, and intellectual property theft.

Another change was the emergence of smaller, more decentralized gangs that were less hierarchical and less tied to traditional triad structures. These gangs were often formed around shared interests, such as music or sports, and they were involved in a range of criminal activities, from drug trafficking to extortion.

Activities of Taiwan’s Gangs in the 2000s

In the 2000s, Taiwan’s gangs continued to be involved in a range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, extortion, prostitution, and gambling. However, the nature of their activities and the methods used to carry them out continued to evolve.

One of the most significant changes was the shift towards transnational organized crime. Taiwan’s gangs began to work more closely with organized crime groups from other countries, particularly China and Southeast Asia, to carry out their criminal activities. This led to an increase in cross-border crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, and money laundering.

Another change was the rise of gangs involved in political and social activism. These gangs were often formed around shared political beliefs, and they used violence and intimidation to advance their agenda. For example, in 2004, a gang called the Black Shirt Army was involved in violent protests against the government’s plan to build a nuclear waste dump in southern Taiwan.

Government Response to Taiwan’s Gangs in the 2000s

In the 2000s, the government took a more nuanced approach to dealing with Taiwan’s gangs. It focused on reducing the social and economic factors that led to the rise of gangs, including poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion. The government also tried to promote alternative forms of employment and education for young people, in an attempt to steer them away from gang membership.

However, the government’s efforts to address the root causes of gang membership were hindered by political instability and corruption. The government’s relationship with Taiwan’s gangs remained complex, with accusations of collusion between the government and certain gangs still surfacing from time to time.

The government’s response to Taiwan’s gangs since the 2000s has been focused on reducing their influence in Taiwanese society and cracking down on their criminal activities. The government has launched a range of initiatives to combat gang-related activities, including increased police surveillance, stricter penalties for gang-related crimes, and a crackdown on illegal weapons.

In addition to these measures, the government has also focused on addressing the root causes of gang membership, including poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion. The government has tried to promote alternative forms of employment and education for young people, in an attempt to steer them away from gang membership.

Despite these efforts, Taiwan’s gangs continue to be a significant presence in Taiwanese society. There have been accusations of collusion between certain gangs and the government, and some gangs continue to operate with impunity.

Organizational Structure of Taiwan’s Gangs in the 2000s

In the 2000s, Taiwan’s gangs continued to be involved in a range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, extortion, and money laundering. However, the structure of these gangs began to change. Traditional triad structures became less prominent, and smaller, more decentralized gangs emerged.

These smaller gangs were often formed around shared interests or activities, such as music or sports, and they were less hierarchical and less tied to traditional triad structures. They were also more likely to use the internet and social media to organize their activities and recruit new members.

The emergence of smaller, decentralized gangs has made it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to track and monitor their activities. These gangs are often more nimble and adaptable than their larger counterparts, making it easier for them to evade detection and continue their criminal activities.

One of the most significant changes was the shift towards transnational organized crime. Taiwanese gangs began to work more closely with organized crime groups from other countries, particularly China and Southeast Asia, to carry out their criminal activities. This led to an increase in cross-border crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, and money laundering.

Taiwan’s gangs also began to engage in more sophisticated forms of white-collar crime, such as fraud, money laundering, and intellectual property theft. These crimes often involved the use of the internet and technology to carry out their illegal activities.

Conclusion

Taiwan’s gangs since the 2000s have continued to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances. While the government’s efforts to crack down on gang-related activities have been successful in reducing their influence in Taiwanese society, gangs have continued to operate in the shadows and engage in a range of criminal activities.

The emergence of smaller, decentralized gangs has made it more difficult for law enforcement agencies to track and monitor their activities. In addition, the shift towards transnational organized crime and the use of technology in criminal activities has made it easier for gangs to evade detection and continue their illegal activities.

The government’s response to Taiwan’s gangs has been focused on reducing their influence and addressing the root causes of gang membership. However, there are still challenges to be overcome, including political instability and corruption, that hinder efforts to combat gang-related activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *