The Bamboo Union is the country's biggest organized crime group, with 68 branches and 1,171 known members -- or more than one out of five of the nation's known gangsters -- according to recently compiled police statistics.
After the Bamboo Union, the Four Seas Gang is the next-largest, with 46 local branches and 726 members. The Tiendaomeng is the third-largest, with 36 branches and 632 members.
The police explained that the numbers represent only those known gang members who are listed as followed or monitored by officers, so the numbers understate the real amount of gangsters in the country.
"There must be more of them in the shadows," a senior officer with the National Police Agency said.
The same statistics also showed that of the roughly 5,300 total known gangsters in the country, 2,119 live in Taipei City, 736 live in Taipei County, 639 live in Taoyuan County, 418 live in Keelung City, 338 live in Taichung City, 288 live in Changhua County, 211 live in Hsinchu City, 208 live in Kaohsiung City and 204 in Kaohsiung County. In addition to these metropolitan areas, the rest of counties or cities have fewer than 200 known gangsters.
The Bamboo Union was established in 1957. Through government crackdowns on gangs, the union lost more and more members.
Police forced its former leader, Chen Chi-li (
In addition to local crime activities, the union was also involved in overseas crime, the most notorious instance being Chen's involvement in the October 1984 murder of Henry Liu (
Liu was a Taiwanese dissident, freelance journalist and a writer. He was assassinated in the driveway of his own residence. The mastermind and real motive for the murder remains mysterious, but investigation showed that he was likely assassinated because of his book, which revealed secrets about former president Chiang Ching-kuo (
1. Bamboo Union, 1, 171 members and 68 branches. Established in 1957.
2. Four Seas Gang, 726 members and 46 local branches. Established in 1955.
3. Tiendaomeng, 632 members and 36 branches. First police records of gang, 1986.
Where the gangsters are:
1. Taipei City: 2,119
2. Taipei County: 736
3. Taoyuan County: 639
4. Keelung City: 418
5. Taichung City: 338
6. Changhua County: 288
7. Hsinchu City: 211
8. Kaohsiung City: 208
9. Kaohsiung County: 204
Source: National Police Agency
Established in 1955, the Four Seas Gang mainly operates in Taipei City's Shihlin and Peitou districts. In contrast to the Bamboo Union, the Four Seas Gang basically consists of Chinese natives and their sons and grandsons. In addition to the traditional gangster businesses of protection and gambling, the gang also makes money from its restaurants, night clubs and construction companies.
As for the Tiendaomeng, its members' names began to show up on police records beginning in October 1986. Two founders were identified; one became a businessman and the other a politician. One of them is currently an owner of a local cable TV station and the other was an independent legislator.
The Tiendaomeng's goal was to unite all of Taiwan's gangsters against Mainlander gangs. They used opposition to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government as a rallying cry, saying that they wanted to resist KMT oppression. But actually they just wanted to be stronger than their Mainlander rivals.