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Violence Gangs and Triad Society in Hong Kong

By Leesuiyi1 May 09, 2013 2065 Words
Violence gangs and triad society

Violence committed by young people is one of the most visible forms of violence.
The ratio of youth is the largest in offending crime of violence, the reason is the involvement of triad society’s activities. (車焯堅,2000) Local scholars have pointed out that, all youth gangs is related to triad society, the member of youth gangs identify with the subculture of triad society, it is easy to involve in crimes. (HKFYG, 2000)

Due to the tally of youth gang to the structure, as well as the style of triad society, youth gangs are easy to be the target of triad society. In the followings, different factors causing violence gangs and triad society will be discussed. Moreover, some solutions and handling strategy will be suggested as well.

Developmental path
To further study about violence gang and triad society, we have to know the developmental path, in other words, it is the process of being violence gangs.

An ordinary youth group may change to group with deviant youths, it is a start of the group changing. If some deviant youths such as someone always skipping lesson, smoking or disturbing others during lesson, added in the ordinary group, the group may be easier to become juvenile gang. It is high risk groups that they start to do something bad, for example robbing, shop-theft and so on. In the end, they may become criminal gangs that have linkage with triad society. They may offend more serious crime like drug trafficking, sex activity operating.

Factors causing youth group to become criminal gangs (triad society)
Super trait theory by Robert Agnew, identifies five life domains that contain possible crime-generating factors. They are personality, family, school, peers and work.

For personality, the neurological and endocrine changes during adolescence temporarily increase irritability/low self-control among adolescents who limit their offending to that period, while for those who continue to offend irritability/low self-control is a stable characteristic.

For family, most of them have poor parent child relationship, poor parenting so that they do not learn self- control. According to social bond theory by Travis Hirschi, all people have the latent tendency of offending crime, people do not offend crime because they afraid breaking social bonds with other. If someone’s social bond is broken or weakened, that one may be carried out deviant behaviour unlimitedly. (香港遊樂場協會,2008) The assumption of Hirschi is that, children who have the most attachment to parent, the least possibility to offend crime. (Hirschi,1969)

For school, youths have poor attitude and academic failure at school are the risk factor. According to “Social causes of violent crimes among young offenders in Hong Kong” (Agnes Ng, 1975), most of them show no interest on studying, having poor academic result at school and unsatisfied self image, low sense of belonging of school life and seldom make friends at school. The rate of drop out from school runs up to 90%.

For peers, they associate with delinquent peers to gain acceptance and emotional support to build their self image. Those delinquent peers may have the similar background as them.

For work, it means unemployment or poor paying job. Most of the youth gangs are drop out from school so early, maybe form 1 or form 2. They have nothing to do or just get a low-pay job, therefore if there is an unearned life, they may be eager on it.

These five domains interact and feed back on one another, and they could lead to delinquency and crime.
Triad society

(Cho Kun)
(Cha So)

Incense Master
(Heung Chu)

Area Boss
(Red Pole)

Members &
Blue Lanterns
Area Boss
(Red Pole)

Members &
Blue Lanterns
Area Boss
(Red Pole)

Members &
Blue Lanterns

(49 Members/Blue

Gang Members
(49 Members/Blue

Gang Members
(49 Members/Blue

Gang Members

As we can see in the above diagram, triad society has a systematic structure like the ordinary career path. If the youth gang members want to get promoted into higher position, they need to give a huge “contribution” to this community. That may be the positive reinforcement of youth gang members to offend more serious crimes because they may gain more money, pleasant sensation and recognition by others after doing such deviant behaviour. (香港遊樂場協會, 2008)

The characteristic of triad activities as follow are obviously show that youth violence gangs have the similar characteristic, it is understandable that youth gangs are easy to be the target of triad society.

* Gang style
* Area of influence (territorially based)
* Resort to threat and fear
* Preys on soft or willing victims
* Prepared to use violence
* Disputes are settled by force
* Opportunistic
* Mainly youngsters

The reason of joining triad society

Reason| Number of people|
Seek for protection| 17|
Proud to participating in triad activities| 17|
Enjoy an unearned life| 16|
Seek friends and sense of belonging| 11|
Can preys on soft or willing victims| 5|
Heroism| 4|
Money, benefits| 3|
Special case (such as forced/threatened by others)| 2|
Revenge| 1|
*Interviewees are 30 youth who used to participated in triad activities
As we can see from the table, seeking for protection is one of the main reasons to join triad society. Since those youth are most likely living in public housing estate, the environment around them is complicated and crime is all around them. So they must join triad society to seek protection and gain a sense of security.

Proud to participating in triad activities is another reason. It can be explained as the cover-up of low self-esteem and sense of failure of deviant youth as they think themselves are failed, either at school or in everyone eyes. If they join a powerhouse, their negative feelings can be hidden by bullying others.

In addition, because of the low educational level, youth gangs are difficult to find a well-paid job. Therefore, they may seek for the unearned life to make their living.

According to Erikson’s 8 stages of development, youth people are experiencing the fifth stage. An adolescent must struggle to discover and find his or her own identity, while negotiating and struggling with social interactions and “fitting in”, and developing a sense of morality and right from wrong. (Erikson,1968) Social interaction means family, friends, teachers and so on. They need recognition by others to find their role. As deviant youth may be a “problematic students” in teacher and classmate’s eyes, ordinary student do not like to be with them. However, if they get into triad society, they can meet friends with the similar situation and background, it seems they are easier to be accepted by others and feel sense of belongings.

The above four reasons, are the major reason of high-risk youth joining triad activities. Since they do not accept the main stream of culture in the society, they just can absorb the criminal subculture to oppose against the former one. (車焯堅,2000)

By using Maslow’s theory to illustrate more, after fulfilling physiological needs, we have to fulfill safety needs, theses two are the basic needs of human. Therefore in the triad society, those youth are protected by their leader. They do not afraid be bullied by others anymore as their leader will revenge his brother. Thus, youth may feel secured under their protection. For higher level, human need to fulfill psychological needs that included belongingness and love needs, as well as esteem needs. In the triad society, youth’s friends like their brother, so they are easy to feel they are one of the parts of this group of people. On the other hand, the self-esteem of youth could be enhanced through fighting and illegitimate behavior. Moreover, for the self-fulfillment needs, triad member may think that being leaders or getting more powerful position can achieve their full potential.

The reason of staying in triad society
There are several reasons that make triad member stay in triad society. It is mainly divided into three perspectives; they are psychological reasons, financial reason and triad affiliation. (Ng Chun Lim, 2007) Power still exist in group, adaptability, traditional mindset and 4 prohibited from the big brother are the psychological reasons. For the financial reason, monetary gains make people to stay in triads. For triads’ affiliation, living in the area, friendship with peer group, pressure from other triad group members and being a core member in the group make them not to leave.

The truth of joining triad society (result)
Indeed, joining triad society is not as ideal as the youth expect. When youth decide to join the triad society, they may offend crimes or take some illegal action involuntarily. Despite of offending criminal law, criminal record would be left after prosecution. It may affect the future like studying, working or even emigrating. Some of them may go to prison, and the worst case is death on street. (HKUSPACE,2006)

Some solutions and handling strategy
The reason of offending crime of youth can be concluded in three factors, family, school and society. (車焯堅,2000) And those three factors make the personality of youth. There are two types of solution, preventive solution and remedial solution.

Preventive solution is mainly relying on education. It helps youth to build up positive value, to explore their strength and to provide some training class so that youth can gain various skills for the job placement. Some scheme are carried out in some school to reach this goal indeed, like Understanding the Adolescent Project(成長的天空計劃), uniformed group(制服團體), Hong Kong Award for Young people and Community Youth Club (公益少年團). These programs are designed for youth to solve their needs and can grow healthily through training and developing their potential. (盧鐵榮,蔡紹基,蘇頌興2005)

For remedial solution, in facts, there are some services aims at solving or alleviating the violence gang and triad society problem. For example, District Youth Outreaching Social Work Service, Overnight Outreaching Service for Young Night Drifters (YNDs), Community Support Service Scheme and Hotline Service for Youth at Risk. (SWD,2013)

District Youth Outreaching Social Work Service and Over-Night Outreaching Social Work Service target on high-risk youth or youth night drifter, and tackle issues of juvenile gangs. It aims at providing counseling and guidance to those youth people as those youth do not participate in conventional social activities and usually have triad background. These two services solve problem through building mutual trust, using worker as model, encouraging Participation in the helping Process and allowing to learn through Trial and Error. These processes may help youth at risk to have positive therapeutic Changes.

Community Support Service Scheme aims at helping children and youth cautioned under the Police Superintendent's Discretion Scheme. It is also re-integrating them into the mainstream education or work. For instance Project Phoenix. (火鳳凰計劃)

Furthermore, there are some hotline services for youth at risk. It can help youth to solve their problems and providing counseling service instantly. Sometime, they organize special education or preventive projects to address their common problems.

The above solutions can decrease youth return the youth violence gangs and triad society.

In conclusion, although society has set up some system or has provided some youth service to prevent young people to go astray. However, it can not only rely on it. To a certain extent, family should take more responsibility to nurture their child because most of the youth gangs or triad members come from a broken family and feel abandoned by parents, therefore they seek the sense of belonging and security, as well as feel loved and cared by others.

Agnes Ng, (1975) Social Causes of violent crimes among young offenders in Hong
Kong, Social research centre, The Chinese university of Hong Kong.

Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: Norton.

Hirschi, T.(1969). Causes of delinquency. Los Angeles and London: University of
California Press, Berkelky.

HKUSPACE.(2006,September 20). Retrieved from

Ng Chun Lim, (2007) Leaving the triad society in Hong Kong, The University of
Hong Kong

Social Welfare Department. (2013, April 13). Retrieved from

車焯堅 (2000)《香港青少年犯罪問題》。香港:中華書局。

香港青年協會 (2000) 《新市鎮發展與童黨問題的關係研究》。青少年問題研究系列

香港遊樂場協會 (2008)《違規路段 高危青少年服務理論與實踐》。

盧鐵榮,蔡紹基,蘇頌興(2005)《解構青少年犯罪及對策》。 香港:香港城市大學

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