Chen Chi-li

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Chen Chi-li
Traditional Chinese陳啟禮
Simplified Chinese陈启礼
Traditional Chinese鴨霸子[1]
Simplified Chinese鸭霸子
Literal meaningKing Duck[2]

Chen Chi-li (11 May 1943 – 4 October 2007), nicknamed King Duck or Dry Duck, was a gangster from Taiwan, best known for heading the United Bamboo Gang.[1][3] His murder of dissident journalist Henry Liu in Daly City, California, United States, in 1984 has been described by the Financial Times as "the most prominent example of the [Kuomintang]'s co-operation with gangsters in upholding its dictatorship".[4]

Early life and gang membership[edit]

Chen was born in Sichuan to a father of Hunan origin and a mother of Jiangsu origin; his father was a civil servant with the Republic of China government.[5] When the Kuomintang fled from mainland China at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, he followed his parents to Taiwan. There, he entered a school in which most of the students were born locally. As one of only three non-locals in his class, he became a frequent target of bullying; he and fellow students with roots in the mainland began to form gangs for their own protection.[2][6] He joined a local gang at 12, and United Bamboo Association (uniting all the "non-local" gangs to stand up against another local gang) was created a couple of years later; it was at this time that he acquired his nickname of "Dry Duck". While still a member of the gang, he went on to receive a bachelor's degree in engineering from Tam Kiang College (now Tamkang University), and served in the army as a lieutenant.[5][7] He became the head of the gang in April 1968; under his leadership, its membership would grow to over a hundred thousand, making it the largest gang in Taiwan.[6]

In 1970, he was sentenced to 5 years in jail for aggravated assault; he was sent to the infamous rehabilitation centre on Green Island, off the coast of Taitung County. Upon regaining his freedom in 1976, he turned his attention to business, establishing Cheng An Enterprise, which sold fire equipment; he grew CAE's market share to 70% in just three years, and soon expanded his activities to other industries such as electronics, stainless steel products, record production, nightclubs, and hydraulic engineering.[7] In 1983, he even started a gang-related magazine which reported on the activities of Taiwan's various criminal groups.[2]

Murder of Henry Liu[edit]

Chen claimed he received the order to kill Henry Liu on 14 August 1984, from KMT officials angered by Liu's authorship of a biography critical of Republic of China president Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek. They allegedly offered him a US$20,000 reward to carry out the murder, which he refused, instead agreeing to kill Liu without compensation out of "patriotism".[2][8] For one month afterwards, he received training at the intelligence bureau's school at Yangmingshan, outside of Taipei, where intelligence officials gave him details of Liu's schedule and movements. During his training period, he also met with Chiang Hsiao-wu, son of Chiang Ching-kuo, whom he stated personally approved the killing. He departed for the United States in September of that same year.[8] Chen and his associate Wu Tun had initially planned to murder Liu on their own by intercepting him at Fisherman's Wharf; after finding the area to be too crowded, they decided instead to attempt to attack him in his home, and enlisted the help of Tung Kuei-sen, a fellow United Bamboo Gang member who was also in the area. The three ambushed Liu in his garage on 15 October 1984, where Wu and Tung shot him; a few days after the killing, Chen, Wu, and Tung all flew back to Taiwan together.[9]

Fearing that he would be betrayed, Chen left a tape with his associate, "Yellow Bird", in Houston, Texas, naming the officials behind the case. When the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation found the tape, they put immense pressure on the Taiwanese government to bring him to trial.[1][2] At his 1985 trial in Taipei, Chen testified in more detail about the connection with the KMT, claiming that Wang Hsi-ling, a vice admiral in the Republic of China Navy and the head of Taiwan's military intelligence, ordered him to kill Liu because Liu was a double agent, spying for both Taiwan and mainland China. Chen claims he disobeyed the order and instructed his associates to "teach [Liu] a lesson" and avoid killing or crippling him.[10] Chen, Wang, and Wu were all sentenced to life in prison on 9 April 1985.[8][11]

Jerome Cohen, then a professor of law at Harvard University, attended an administrative hearing for Chen and Wu on behalf of Liu's widow Helen Liu; he derided the trial as a "well-rehearsed performance", stating that the two read their statements from notebooks, and implied that their testimonies had been coached by the Taiwanese government, who sought to portray Wang as a rogue officer acting alone, and avoid other intelligence officials being implicated.[8][11] The week after the trial, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 387-2 a non-binding resolution (H.Con.Res. 110) calling on Taipei to extradite Chen and Wu to the United States to stand trial there; the "nay" votes came from Bob Stump (R-AZ) and Howard C. Nielson (R-UT).[12] Taipei rejected the request the following day.[13] Less than two months after his conviction, Chen retracted his accusations against Wang.[14]

Chen, Wang, and Wu were given clemency by the Taiwanese government and released in January 1991.[15] He and Wu were treated as "heroes" by the media and the public; Chen declared his intention to transform the United Bamboo Gang into a legitimate business enterprise, and established Chuan An Construction, which was successful not only in the booming construction industry on Taiwan, but also made large investments outside Taiwan as well, including an RMB10 billion resort project in Hunan's Moon Lake area.[7]

Exile and death[edit]

Five years after his release, Chen fled to Cambodia to avoid further organized crime-related charges in Taiwan under Operation Chih-ping, a police operation which sought to round up various gang figures. He had just been diagnosed with cancer, and his doctor had advised him to go somewhere relaxing and avoid stress.[7] He married Chen Yi-fan in a ceremony there in 1998.[5] In July 2000, he made news again after being arrested for illegal possession of firearms; the Cambodian police had moved against him after Taiwanese television stations broadcast images of him showing off his guns. Chen claimed the guns had been purchased for self-defense in the aftermath of the 1997 coup by Hun Sen.[16][17] He lived quite luxuriously in Cambodia, alone in his 2,600 square metres (28,000 sq ft) villa, while his wife and children remained in Taiwan.[1]

Chen was hospitalised at St. Teresa's Hospital of Hong Kong in August 2007 due to the worsening of his pancreatic cancer; he remained there until his death in October of that same year. His body was flown back to Taiwan on 18 October.[2][18] Fellow Liu killer Wu Tun, with whom Chen had remained friends, helped to organise his funeral; over three thousand people came to pay their respects.[19][20] Among the mourners were major politicians from both the blue and green camps such as Wang Jin-pyng of the Kuomintang and Ker Chien-Ming of the Democratic Progressive Party, as well as various celebrities of whom the most prominent was popular singer Jay Chou; they suffered harsh criticism for their attendance, including a Taipei Times editorial, which characterised the politicians' presence as "revolting" and stated that Chou "should be ashamed, but we are not sure if he has the depth of character to feel it."[21] Chou, who showed up wearing sunglasses and left after only 20 minutes, had become acquainted with Chen through his son Baron Chen, with whom Chou had previously worked in the filming of Kung Fu Dunk.[22][23] Other attendees, including black-clad teenagers and those carrying knives and firearms, were turned away by the hundreds of police who came out to the funeral to maintain order.[3] A total of fourteen United Bamboo Gang members were arrested in connection with the funeral.[24]

Chen had been married three times. From the three women he had three sons and three daughters.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d "啟禮病逝 (Chi-li dies of illness)". TVBS News (in Chinese). 4 October 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f O'Neill, Mark (24 October 2007). "King Duck Goes to His Taiwanese Reward". Asia Sentinel. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  3. ^ a b "Thousands bid farewell to gang boss". The China Post. 9 November 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  4. ^ Hille, Kathrin (2 November 2007). "Killer's death haunts Taiwan party". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  5. ^ a b c "陳啟禮的父母恩 (Chen Chi-li's parental love)". PChome Magazine (in Chinese). TVBS. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  6. ^ a b "台"黑帮教父"陈启礼出殡 黑白两道万人送行 (Good guys and bad, thousands march at funeral of Taiwan "Triad Father" Chen Chi-li)". Xinhua News Agency (in Chinese). 9 November 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d Chin, Ko-lin (2003). Heijin: Organized Crime, Business, and Politics in Taiwan. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 34–37. ISBN 0-7656-1219-4.
  8. ^ a b c d "The murder of Henry Liu" (PDF). Taiwan Communique. International Committee for Human Rights in Taiwan. 19. April 1985. ISSN 1027-3999.
  9. ^ Chin. Heijin: Organized Crime, Business, and Politics in Taiwan. p. 212.
  10. ^ "Taiwan Admiral Named at Murder Trial". The New York Times. 21 March 1985. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  11. ^ a b Lohr, Steve (9 April 1985). "Taiwan Convicts 2 in U.S. Killing". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  12. ^ House Vote #49 in 1985,, retrieved 27 July 2012
  13. ^ "Taiwan Rejects Request by U.S. for 2 Convicts". The New York Times. 18 April 1985. Retrieved 6 January 2008.
  14. ^ "Taiwan Murderer Changes His Story". The New York Times. 11 May 1985. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  15. ^ "Taiwan Gives Clemency to 3 Convicted of Slaying Writer". The New York Times. 22 January 1991. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  16. ^ Liu, Shao-hua (11 July 2000). "Exiled gang boss to face courts". Taipei Times. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  17. ^ "Bamboo Union members pay respects to late boss". Taiwan Headlines. Government Information Office, Republic of Taiwan. 19 October 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  18. ^ "Death of reputed gang leader invokes memories of dark era in Taiwan". International Herald-Tribune. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  19. ^ a b Chuang, Jimmy (19 October 2007). "Police guard gangster's temporary funeral hall". Taipei Times. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  20. ^ "Gangsters bid farewell to Taipei boss". The Standard. 9 November 2007. Archived from the original on 22 May 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
  21. ^ "Editorial: Gangsters, gangsters everywhere". Taipei Times. 9 November 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  22. ^ "陳啟禮告別式 周董獻唱致意? (Will Mr. Chou sing his respects at Chen Chi-li's funeral?)". Sina News (in Chinese). 16 October 2007. Archived from the original on 19 October 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  23. ^ "周杰倫弔陳啟禮 慰陳楚河喪父痛 (Jay Chou mourns Chen Chi-li, consoles Chen Chuhe on the loss of his father)". PChome Magazine (in Chinese). TVBS. 31 October 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.
  24. ^ "14 gangsters arrested for arranging don's funeral". The China Post. 7 November 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2007.