Taipei Times: When was the Tiendaomeng (
Yang Tzu-ching (
By "military training" I don't mean the compulsory military service that most Taiwanese males do for two years. It was "special training" for those hoodlums whom the police believed could not really be reformed at a regular prison.
PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES
According to the law, once a person was recognized as a hoodlum by the courts and added to the national list of hoodlums, the police would arrest the person and send him for that "training" directly. After being "trained" for a certain amount of time approved by the court, the hoodlum would have to go back to a regular prison to serve his sentence along with other inmates.
In October of 1986 Yang Teng-kuei (楊登魁), [now chairman of the Association for Cable Broadcasting Development], Lo Fu-chu (羅福助) [now an independent lawmaker] and [a group of other men with links to organized crime] all found themselves on Green Island at the same time. It was there that they began the process of establishing the Tiendaomeng.
The gang's goal was to unite all of Taiwan's gangsters together against mainlander gangs. They used the KMT government as an excuse, saying that they wanted to break through the KMT's oppression. But actually they just wanted to be stronger than mainlander gangs.
For privacy reasons, I cannot give their full names. However, except for Yang and Lo, both of whom are well-known in Taiwan, all of the rest of the gang's founding members are either in jail or have passed away.
I must say that the Tiendaomeng gang is a unique organization compared with other gangs in Taiwan because in addition to hosting illegal casinos, they also make money through legal means.
In Taiwan, we divide all of the gang organizations into four different types -- temporary groups, local gangsters, local organizations and combination groups. Tiendaomeng belongs to the combination groups category.
[They fit the combination group category for four reasons].First of all, the gang was established in jail by a bunch of prisoners. Secondly, other than their illegal casino business, the gang also makes money though legal businesses such as construction projects, trading companies, etc. Thirdly, all of its leaders are also the leaders or owners of these legal companies. And fourth, the gang members are seldom involved in criminal cases.
The members use the gang's money to start up a legal business. After the company begins to turn a profit, the gang member in turn uses that money to support other gang members for the same purposes.
TT: All businesses require some capital to start with. How did the gang begin to collect its money?
Yang: The Tiendaomeng began by monopolizing the cigarette market in the prisons. Anybody who wanted to buy cigarettes had to go through the gang members in the various prisons. These gang members took each cigarette in a pack and made them into smaller and thinner cigarettes. For example, 24 cigarettes in a package would become 48 or even more. They then sold the cigarettes at a higher price.
TT: How was the Tiendaomeng structured?
Yang: The Tiendaomeng had a number of committees, six branch offices and a main office. Lo, the lawmaker, was the chief of the main office.
In the six branch offices, there were six leaders as well as six deputy leaders. The deputy leaders were inmates chosen by the leaders for not having any mafia links. The branch office leaders also assigned committee captains. In turn, the committee captains appointed inmates without previous mafia links to be their deputy committee captains. There was no limit on the number of committee members.
The gang's leaders were always real mafia guys and the deputy leaders had to be people without mafia links who were in jail on misdemeanor offenses.
Also, membership fees were not required. However, we still do not know what the gang's rules were, its code of conduct or how they identified each other.
The Taipei Prison was the original location where the gang began to expand. Gang members took advantage of being transferred to other prisons to invite more inmates to join the organization.
Whenever a convict finished his term, he would be told to report to an assigned location and a person on the outside.
Also, whenever a gang member was about to be jailed, the contacts on the outside tell the prison-bound member who to report to inside the jail.
That's how they built up such a huge gang organization and how it kept growing.
TT: Is this recruitment we just discussed still going on in Taiwan's prisons? Does the Tiendaomeng still exist?
Yang: Two years ago, Minister of Justice Liao Cheng-hao (廖正豪) asked all domestic gangs to disband, saying that if they failed to do so, the gang's leaders would be directly sent to the Green Island once caught. So technically, there shouldn't be any gangs on the island.
However, it is absurd [to believe] that these people do not have any contact with each other anymore, even if their gang no longer exists.
And it is impossible for us to assume that they are not engaging in illegal activities.
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