Big Circle Gang
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|Founding location||Hong Kong|
|Territory||Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Malaysia, United States, Canada|
|Criminal activities||Racketeering, Murder, drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering|
Tai Huen Chai (大圈仔) (THC), Big Circle Boys, is perhaps the most progressive of the organized Triads formed since the Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949. The Big Circle Gang (大圈幫) is the designation given to the soldier members of the group. The highest ranks, considered equivalent to Commanding Officer or Commissar, are generally involved in legitimate business, gambling, and in the position of Lutsze-yeh (a managing or controlling lawyer's clerk).
In the early 1950s members of the "Ultra-Left" were purged at all levels of the Communist Party of China. On Josef Stalin's' birthday in 1951, Mao Zedong is reported to have ordered the execution of some 50,000 intellectuals and communists (including heterosexual and LGBT members). Many were executed on one night, usually shot in their bunks at the camps where they were interned.
Expelled from society, the left was continually harassed, facing summary execution, exile, banishment to their home villages or internment in prison camps. In order to specify that those interned were political offenders and in an attempt to maintain solidarity, those camps that later housed the Left Faction of the Red Guards were defined as containing political subversives, and depending on their size and location, an exclusion zone was established around them. The exclusion areas were marked on PLA and internal state maps by a large printed red circle.
The groups that survived evolved under intolerable conditions. The Anarchist/Communists moved to Hong Kong with some of the older leadership of the party from the Trotskyists and Anarchists. The more proletarian elements, as well as utopian fighters, formed a series of underground and secret societies in imitation of the Triads (traditional clan organizations for social and civic mutual protection, kept secret from the authorities).
Violent centers evolved along the Hong Kong border, with small groups formed out of the core factions. Their activity was subject to much folklore and movie distortion. Some of the smaller splinter groups started a lucrative business in the 1980s to use shock tactics in robberies throughout Hong Kong and Kowloon of jewelers' shops, manufacturers, businessmen, politicians, lawyers and civil servants.
By its peak in the 1990s, the THC commanded the loyalty of an estimated 50,000 people in Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Known as the boss of the bosses, their political strength was used in a more direct manner after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, joint British and Chinese intelligence exercises were followed by the trapping and summary execution of prominent THC members and high profile trials of its leadership. This was the period of Sino-British talks, where the question of internal and SAR border security was discussed, as well as the means to strike against secret societies/t'ongs in the run-up to the return of Hong Kong to the motherland.
Some THC sections advocated acquiescence, but the younger and more aggressive groups, who had linked with others throughout Africa, Europe and the Americas, were opposed to this. Small splinter groups from the main US/Canada/Hong Kong/Malay societies, together with political groups such as Hong Kong's Proletarian Society, joined them.
Certain groups continued financing raids, but with declining success; for example, Yip Kai-foon, an alleged 438 ranking of one THC group and nearly all the leadership of the 'Old' DHJ, had been captured, 'killed' (some were never identified).
This situation developed after China began its economic reforms in 1979. Organisations such as DHJ and the left wing were no longer seen as community or civic brotherhoods. These societies were once social service providers in Kowloon communities, supplying social security, medical care, funds for distressed wives, pensions, education allowances, free legal advice, schools and clinics. All such services, bar a few community or third sector law agencies, were destroyed when the leadership opposed to the secession was destroyed. Young, more business-oriented leaders arose to fill the void. While some groups withered away, others were stopped by the government. Linked to the successful annihilation of the T'ong leaders in the THC groups was the renovation of the main areas of the DHJ in Kowloon, Mongkok, Yaumatei and Kowloon City. Areas where state officers had been unable to go were secured. Control of the Triads moved to a newer generation of youth without the education, tradition or history to lead a Triad and with little understanding of the earlier principles.
The Triads were once described by Mao as a useful section of society to rely on, but apt to be violent. The imprisonment of so-called Triad chiefs proved almost impossible in the late 1980s and 1990s, as some members took control of law firms or established their own and maintained business as usual, with law firms as supplements to their use of violence.
Dai Kan, the reputed ‘God of Sze-yeh', the DC clan, dominated the criminal legal field throughout the 1990's. He used small teams of clerks, former members of Hong Kong police or its Correctional Department, and willing solicitors and barristers, some of whom were openly identified as senior Triad officers, and independents who evolved separate clerking operations. He also used barristers and solicitors uninvolved in organized crime to conduct trial defenses. One set of these were referred to as the ‘Kiwi Mafia’.
Alleged westerner Hak-mao (Black Cat), said to be a 415 rank of THC, is believed to have channeled over HK $150 million into criminal defence cases over a decade, using law firm bills that were passed by courts, in order to finance some of the largest criminal trials in the 1990s. Hak-mao, who was said to be a trained lawyer, and Dai Kan were known to be the source of big clients and to have access to funds for cases, including the Appeals of Yip Kai Foon.
Chung focused on the Big Circle Boys and the case of the ‘Flaming Eagles’, a group of some ten associations of the Big Circle Boys. The primary activity was smuggling and trafficking heroin from the ‘Golden Triangle’ region to the United States. Chung argued that the Big Circle Boys were a loosely affiliated group of gangs rather than a unified criminal group. Members often operated autonomously with small cells, engaging in illegal activities independently and co-operating only when necessary.
Since 2000, few reports discuss the Big Circle Boys. Hong Kong and Western enforcement agencies label criminals originating from Guangzhou or other parts of China as 'Asian criminals' instead of calling them ‘Big Circle Boys’.
- Mao, Tsetung (1920). Analysis of the classes.
- Interview with Hak-mao in his Mongkok Law office June 2011.
- Chung, Alex (2008). "The big circle boys: Revisiting the case of the flaming eagles". Global Crime 9 (4): 306–331. doi:10.1080/17440570802543540.
- Wang, Peng (2011). "Vicious circles - Gang legacy of the Cultural Revolution". Jane's Intelligence Review 23 (08): 46–49.
- "Big Circle Boys born of Red Guards: Drugs, loansharking among Asian gang's specialities". Vancouver Sun. June 10, 2005.
- Chinese Organized Crime and Illegal Alien Trafficking: Humans as a Commodity (US Department of State)
- High-ranking Big Circle Boy killed in Vancouver (Global TV)
- Raid revealed extortion gang's strength (Sydney Morning Herald)
- 2 Men Charged in Chinatown Gang Death New York Times (December 30, 1995)